GCU Takes No. 13 Hawai'i To Five Sets Before Falling 3-2

Grand Canyon battled back to force a fifth set, but were unable to knock off No. 13 Hawai’i in front of a lively crowd of 2,714 at Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu Friday.

Sophomore outside hitter Ben Ponnet had a career-high 23 kills and a .400 hitting percentage (23-5-40). GCU (5-4) lost by set scores of 25-27, 25-16, 25-21, 25-27, 15-12.

“We competed well enough to win, we just didn’t make enough plays at the end,” said GCU coach Jeremy Price. “I think everybody would have liked to have had a play or two back to try to make the difference.”

GCU trailed 21-17 and 23-20 in the first set and 19-16 in the fourth before rallying for a pair of 27-25 victories. GCU was down 10-3 in the third and came back to tie it at 16-16, before the Rainbows took the game and 2-1 advantage.

Ponnet and Jordon Tarantino, who finished with 21 kills on a school-record 55 attacks, had late kills to wrap up the first set. A Ponnet kill tied the set at 24-24. The deciding points came on a pair of Tarantino spikes.

In the fourth set, GCU fought off two match points before setter Keith Smithwas credited w ith his lone kill of the match to force the fifth set.  The insertion of senior Taylor Galliano helped spark the team. Galliano, in limited time, finished with four kills and four block assists.

In the fifth set, Grand Canyon led 4-2, trailed 9-7 and came back to tie the set, again, 10-10.

“We had a little lull in the second and third set,” said Price. “We weren’t bad in the fifth. We just weren’t good enough to win it.

“It was a very competitive rugged match,” added Price. “It wasn’t the prettiest. It was a tough match, not for the faint of heart. We need to play these kinds of matches to get ready for the conference season.”

Senior Taylor Griffin added seven kills and 10 digs. Libero Trent Bruns had a team-high 13 digs.

Smith had 53 assists and a match-best seven block assists. GCU had 12.5 blocks. Middle hitter Christopher Lockwood had six block assists. GCU hit .230 for the match, including a .462 clip in the fifth. Hawai’i hit .257 and had 13 kills and a .550 percentage in the second and nine kills and a .538 in the fifth. Both teams had 17 kills in the fourth set.

It was the first time Ponnet had reached the 20-kill mark. His career-high coming in was 19, set earlier this season against NJIT. He had twice had 18 kills in a match.'

“He was one of the best, if not the best, player on the floor tonight,” said Price.

Hawai’i slowed down GCU’s strong middle play. Lockwood and freshmen Ryan Mather and Keaton Berry combined for only 2 kills on 15 tries with seven errors.

“We didn’t get the normal production we get out of our middles, but we’ll make adjustments for (Saturday’s) match,” said Price. “We have a lot of confidence in them.”

It was the largest crowd GCU men's volleyball has ever played in front of. The previous high was 715 at Ball State on Jan. 21, 2010.

The teams meet again at Stan Sheriff Center 10 p.m. Saturday. Fans can follow live stats, audio and video (there is a fee for the video) provided by the University of Hawai’i. The links will be made available on www.GCULopes.com.

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