Sunday, October 2, 2022
By: Tiff Wells
After two 3-0 wins to open up Big West play, UH saw themselves tied atop the conference standings with UC Santa Barbara and Cal Poly entering week two. Week two…UH back on the road for the first time in five weeks. How would they travel? Could they carry the momentum gained from home and take it with them on the road? Defend home court and win on the road; that is the recipe if you want to be in the conference champ conversation at the end of the season.
Eyes were widened around the conference after Cal State Fullerton beat Long Beach State after Tuesday. With UH playing the Titans and then Long Beach State, UH could not afford a slip up before the rivalry match.
Sure UH has started matches slow sometimes this season, as evident by the 10-6 deficit in the first set against. But if you’re going to get down in a set, do so early enough to give yourself enough time to make a comeback. In the blink of an eye, UH had it tied at 11. Eight kills by Amber Igiede in Set 1 gave UH the 25-20 victory. A two-point lead at 8-6 ballooned to 28-10 as the Bows won set 2 25-15. Tayli Ikenaga went back to the service line in Set 3 at 8-7. When she left, it was 19-8. UH comfortably won the frame 25-13 to defeat Cal State Fullerton in straight sets. It was the 9th-straight 3-0 win by UH over the Titans in Fullerton and overall, UH now a perfect 46-for-46 all-time against Cal State Fullerton. UH was focused and locked throughout the 82 minute sweep. The Titans came into the week 20th in the NCAA with 16.32 digs per set; they had a total of 37 in three sets. All but one Rainbow Wahine player saw action. Making her UH debut was Kennedi Evans, the transfer from Utah. The #Sistahhood was on full display as the UH bench went crazy as Evans was subbed in. It was from crazy to jubilation as Evans served the walk-off ace as UH improved to 3-0 in BWC play.
Bows. Beach. Another chapter in the longtime and storied rivalry of these two programs. UH trending up, coming in at 3-0 in conference play, and all three wins by 3-0 set scores. Beach undefeated at home (3-0 coming in), but coming off the disappointing loss at Cal State Fullerton. With two conference losses, LBSU knew that a win over Hawai`i not only would end their losing streak against the Bows (lost 9-straight), but it would keep their name amongst the top teams in the conference. Freshman Caylen Alexander had six kills in the opening set as UH broke an 11-all tie to win 25-20. Back-and-forth set two had UH take the 15-12 lead, had it grow to 20-16 and then sideout the rest of the way to win 25-21 and lead the match 2-0. Maybe the two best sets for UH in terms of siding out on first ball contact as the Bows sided out at 80.5% (34-42). UH hit over .300 in both sets (.382, .306). All the momentum carried into the locker room at intermission, stayed there during set three. UH recorded just five total kills as The Beach handed UH their first conference set loss of the season, 25-15. It would snap UH’s
14-set win streak. The Bows made a change on the right side as Kendra Ham started the fourth set for Braelyn Akana. Ham went for career-highs of four kills and two blocks. Down 12-10, UH rallied to lead 15-14. Another in-game sub by the coaching staff, Mylana Byrd spelled Kate Lang at setter for a couple rotations. Three assists, a dig and block helped UH grow the lead. Then the floor captain took over. Riley Wagoner scored the final four points as UH won the set 25-19 to win the match 3-1. Surf’s up at The Beach as the Bows hang ten…ten straight wins over LBSU. It also snapped Long Beach’s six-match home winning streak.
The trio of Riley Wagoner (16 kills), Caylen Alexander (13 kills) and Amber Igiede (10 kills) all hit double-digit kills for the third straight match. Yes UH was outblocked 10-6, but in the backrow, the Bows continued to shine as UH out-dug Long Beach 60-51. Fourth double-double for Kate Lang (32 assists, 13 digs) on the season and UH’s three “littles” (Edmonds, Ikenaga and Ham) were productive in the backrow as they combined for 28 digs.
Two weeks through conference play and only two teams are atop the standings at 4-0…UH and UC Santa Barbara. UC Irvine (9-5, 2-2) comes to town on Friday with maybe two of the most explosive players in the BWC…Onye Ofoegbu and Joy Umeh. The Anteaters went 1-1 on the road this week (lost 3-2 at UC Davis, won 3-0 at UC Riverside). UH finishes the weekend facing UC San Diego (8-8, 1-3) on Saturday. The Tritons went 0-2 this weekend on the road, losing at UC Riverside and UC Davis in five sets.
Road wins are always great and leaving the continent with two of them makes that plane ride home even sweeter. UH knew coming into conference play that as the defending two-time Big West champions, they’d get the best effort from their opponent night in and night out. That target continues to grow and entering week three at 4-0, UH knows they can’t afford to take anyone lightly.