NAIA Mustangs defeat Division I Rainbow Warriors in five sets
By David Caldwell
Sports Information Director, The Master’s University
History was made Saturday in The MacArthur Center as the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors men’s volleyball team, the two-time defending NCAA Division I National Champions, played The Master’s University for the first time in an exhibition match in front of a capacity crowd.
The Mustangs defeated the Rainbow Warriors in a thrilling five-set match, 25-22, 18-25, 25-23, 24-26, 15-13.
Hawaii had a split squad as it had another exhibition match in Southern California, but that didn’t faze the crowd that learned Master’s men’s volleyball is a legitimate NAIA national championship contender when the regular season starts in January.
“It was great to be able to have the University of Hawaii come out and play in Santa Clarita this past weekend,” said Master’s head coach Jared Goldberg. “Our team was excited to bring in such a talented opponent that was coming off back-to-back NCAA DI national championships, and we are grateful for Hawaii being one of the first NCAA DI teams to schedule a match in the Santa Clarita Valley.”
Master’s, a team that reached as high as No. 8 in the NAIA national poll last season, was led by 6-foot-10 freshman phenom Nolan Flexen, who pounded 27 kills and hit .400 for the match while adding five blocks. Flexen, who can touch 12 feet on a running jump, was routinely able to hit over the top of the Rainbow Warriors’ vaunted block that included 6-foot-9 middle blocker Kurt Nusterer, 6-foot-8 setter Austin Buchanan and 6-foot-8 outside hitter Alaka’i Todd.
“I was impressed with our team’s demeanor and competitive focus to come out and take the first set in front of a packed crowd,” Goldberg said. “When it came to crucial points, everyone in the gym knew who was being set and [Flexen] managed to take some big-time swings offensively. Freshman setter Matthew Hamm also did a great job running our offense and opening opportunities for his hitters.”
Hamm finished with 49 assists, while All-American outside hitter Diego Perez and freshman Isaac Seltzer each contributing nine kills. Seltzer and 6-foot-10 middle blocker Brett Norkus led the Mustangs with six blocks each.
After Master’s took a 2-1 lead in sets, Hawaii took a back-and-forth fourth set to 24-21 before the Mustangs rattled off three straight points that included two blocks to tie it, 24-24. But two attack errors by the Mustangs gave the Rainbow Warriors the win, 26-24, to force a decisive fifth set.
Both teams took small leads only to see the other battle back to claim a small lead of its own. Hawaii led 12-10 when Master’s got four straight points, highlighted by two monster kills from Flexen, to take it to match point. After a kill by Hawaii’s Nusterer, Isaac Seltzer’s ninth kill won the match for the Mustangs.
As a team, TMU had 57 kills to Hawaii’s 46, but were out-blocked (12-13) and out-aced (8-9).
The Mustangs will next be at home in The MacArthur Center on Jan. 16 when they host Emmanuel College out of Georgia in their last exhibition match. The regular season begins Jan. 27 when Master’s travels to Des Moines, Iowa, to take on Grand View University, the defending NAIA national champions of men’s volleyball.