At The Net: A Rainbow Wahine Volleyball Blog by Tiff Wells | Week 3

At The Net: A Rainbow Wahine Volleyball Blog by Tiff Wells | Week 3

Sunday, September 11, 2022 | By Tiff Wells

A non-conference that featured a trip to College Station and five matches on the island came to a close this past weekend. And what a non-conference it was. All seven opponents finished the 2021 season with an RPI of 75 of or under…six of them finishing 2021 with an RPI under 50. There were no bad opponents. No cupcake wins. UH wanted a challenging non-conference to not only prepare them for the Big West Conference title defense, but to also set themselves up with a good strength of schedule and resume. But entering week 3 with a losing record, there were two final opportunities to get a signature win. Not just for the program, but for the Big West Conference as well.

Each of the first three sets against USC in night one were decided by two points. UH was right there. USC maybe didn’t have the same height across the board as UCLA, but the Women of Troy were very imposing at the net. A season-high 12.5 total team block combined with another shaky performance by the UH serve receive forced the Rainbow Wahine offense into many out-of-system swings. And for a second-straight match, UH had 32 hitting errors. Combine that with the 10 service errors, UH gave USC 42 points. Nearly two full sets worth of points. You won’t win many matches giving away that many points. For as error prone as UH was against UCLA and in night one against USC, the Bows were right there in both of those matches. And one thing is for certain. This team won’t quit. Coach Robyn won’t let them. This fan base won’t let them. This was evident when USC had match point at 24-15. UH scored five straight, forcing USC to call both of their timeouts. They might have lost the match but for the six that were on the floor when USC scored the match-winning point, they showed the fan base that they won’t quit until the opponent wins the set.

In a two-match series, typically more adjustments are needed to be made by the team that loses on night one. And typically the team that loses the first match does play better in match two. Two tough sets and the home team was down 0-2 in the match. It’s not how you start; it’s how you finish. A refuse to lose mindset combined with the home crowd, the Bows began to mount their comeback. A Riley Wagoner kill got UH to within a point at 12-11. Kendra Ham then went back to serve. She then served again. And again. And again. UH would score seven points on her serve to give them the lead for the good. And not just in the third set. A 5-0 Caylen Alexander scoring run powered UH in the fourth set, a set that UH never trailed and led by as many as 10 points. A back-and-forth fifth set saw UH take the lead as the teams switched sides at 8-7. Giving up point-scoring runs had plagued this team through the first two plus weeks of the season. Turnabout is fair play as UH scored eight of the final nine points, including the match-ending Kate Lang block as UH ended the non-conference with a very nice addition to their resume.

Blocking adjustments were made for UH as the Bows recorded 10 blocks in night two (UH had just five in the first match). The hitters made their adjustments as UH had just 17 hitting errors (only six over the final three sets) whereas the Bows had 32 in night one. The serve-receive came together as UH sided out at 85% (22-26) in the final two sets. UH hit .370 in the third set, .333 in the fourth and .471 in the fifth. As impressive as USC’s Skylar Fields was (25 kills, hit .392) and where she routinely hit over the top of the UH block for the kill, that’s all it was. One kill. One point. No style or bonus points here. Even though Fields went off, UH did just enough to shut down the others en route to the program’s 1300th win all-time. And what a memorable win it was.

As UH made their comeback, the crowd got louder and became more engaged as the match went later into the evening. It sure has been an interesting couple of years for this program. The conference shut down the sport in 2020, then UH went through many capacity limitations and health and safety protocols through the 2021 season. Now with neither in place, the home advantage does seem to be back for the Rainbow Wahine. 

No regular season match this week for UH, although they do have their annual alumnae match this Friday. It’s always entertaining. And it’s always great to see those who are part of the program’s foundation back on the floor. It then will be followed by the Green/White scrimmage. Both events are free.

At 3-5, UH enters Big West Conference play with a losing record. Two of the five losses were very winnable matches (both 5-set losses to Texas A&M and then No. 23 UCLA). Two 3-0 losses to ranked teams (then No. 6 Pitt, then No. 25 San Diego) where both matches could have gone to a fourth-set. And then as much as UH struggled in the first match against USC, that match also could have gone to five-sets. No bad losses. No non-conference opponent that would be detrimental to UH’s overall resume.

All eyes for UH is now on the defense of their Big West Conference title, that begins at home on September 23rd against UC Davis. More than likely the BWC champ will be the lone representative into the NCAA Women’s Volleyball Championship. As UH takes week four of the season off from competition, opportunities are there for other conference members to pick up important wins. Not just for their own record, but for the conference as well. Non-conference wins are important for this conference, especially after they cancelled the 2020 season.

#GoBows

Photos by Jarin Kobashigawa:

Photos by David Croxford