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Dave Reardon: Is it time for Hawaii men's volleyball to reset, rebuild or reload?

Apr. 21—Most volleyball fans get it about sportsmanship, as much or more than those of any other game.

Most volleyball fans get it about sportsmanship, as much or more than those of any other game.

With a few rare exceptions, so do the participants. It's a big part of the culture.

And Hawaii fans, in particular, have a reputation of showing appreciation for quality play—by either team.

Maybe things have changed a little over the years, as some spectators unfamiliar with the sport's ethos don't see it that way. They buy into the inane mindset that paying for a seat means you've bought the privilege to yell anything you want, at whomever you want.

I heard some dumb stuff shouted by a couple of fools Friday during the Big West tournament semifinal match between UC Irvine and Hawaii. It wasn't enough to change anything, as UH took it on the chin and in the heart, with its streak of consecutive appearances in the NCAA Tournament halted at four. The Anteaters swept the Warriors in 31 /2 sets (how else to describe it when one stanza requires 36 points to win ?).

Afterward, the Hawaii fans stood, in appreciation for all of it, including the back-to-back national championships many of these players were a part of in 2021 and 2022.

There was still hope UH could make it to Saturday's Big West final before that second set it should have put away routinely, leading it 24-21. But a reverse sweep after that (and having lost the first set despite leading 7-1 and 23-22 ) was way too much to ask for.

So, now, the main question for Warriors fans is if the dynasty is over, or is it just on pause ?

Is it time to reset, reload or rebuild ?

The Warriors already have their setter of the future : Tread Rosenthal, who started this year as a freshman, replacing Jakob Thelle, who was the one player most responsible for UH's historic run of success.

So maybe this was supposed to be the rebuilding year, anyway, even before Spyros Chakas' season-ending injury. The only problem with that idea is 17-1 isn't the record of a team that is rebuilding. That's where the Warriors stood when Chakas suffered his injury—which came late in a five-set victory over UC Irvine on March 10.

Injuries are part of sports, but it's still hard to not play the what-if game. With Chakas, does UH win a third consecutive Big West championship, or at least earn an at-large bid to the NCAAs ?

Another what-if stared us right in the face, across the net Friday. What if Brett Sheward was still in a Hawaii uniform, and not the setter for UC Irvine ? "Shewie " started at libero on the 2022 national championship team and the'23 runners-up. He was also a backup setter and presumed starter with Thelle completing his eligibility after last season.

But the only constant in college sports is change, especially now, and one of the heroes of the UH dynasty is headed to his fifth consecutive NCAA Tournament. This time, though, it's not as a Warrior, .

"I played with them for five years, so I know their game pretty well, " Sheward said. "It helped us develop a game plan."

Any bad feelings either way are well-concealed. This is, after all, volleyball, and Hawaii.

"Just that we're happy for each other, " Sheward said of a brief conversation with UH coach Charlie Wade after Friday's match. "It was a good ride for five years. I'll keep the rest between us."

In a different sport, in a different era, in a different place maybe Sheward doesn't get the warm reception he still enjoys from UH fans. He took a joke about the long beard he's grown being a disguise in the lighthearted way it was intended.

"For the most part, it's been aloha. I haven't heard anybody who's been mad at me or thrown anything at me yet, " said Sheward, who first returned here as an Anteater in March, for the Outrigger Invitational, and was as distraught as anyone when Chakas suffered his injury. "Seeing those guys on the other side of the net is cool. ... It's been really special to be back, and I'm grateful for my time here."