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At the Net: A Rainbow Wahine Volleyball Blog by Tiff Wells

Sunday, October 9, 2022

By: Tiff Wells

Two weeks complete in conference play and only two unbeaten teams remained entering Week 3…Hawai`i and UC Santa Barbara. All 11 Head Coaches know their team needs to do more than just show up in order to get a win. Nothing is a given in this league. What is a given is the parity, as evident as what took place on Friday in Long Beach as The Beach beat UCSB prior to UH’s match against UC Irvine. All alone in first place, UH came out and played their best match of the season and arguably their most complete match in some time.

The Bows came into the match without the availability of Braelyn Akana as the normal starter wasn’t dressed and wasn’t with the team (she would return the next night). Making her first start of the season, Anika De Goede looked real comfortable early on as she put down four of her seven kills in the first set. Against one of the most offensive-minded teams in the county, UH held their own and was the more efficient team as the night went on. Siding out at 73% off first-ball contact for the match (38-for-52), UH was in control of the match from start to finish. Outside of starting slow to begin the match where UH was down 3-1, it was all UH from then on. A season-high .471 (56-8-102) hitting percentage for the Bows paved the way for an efficient, dominant, eye-opening sweep (18-19-13) over UC Irvine. UH’s three middles (Amber Igiede, Tiffany Westerberg and Kennedi Evans) went errorless (30-0-41) to hit a combined .732. Riley Wagoner recorded her 500th kill as a Rainbow Wahine in the match and for as good as UH started the match, they finished even better to a tune of a 20-kill performance in set 3 to hit .543. Two of the three sets saw a UH hold double-digit leads en route to the comfortable sweep.

Photo: David Croxford

Every team must overcome adversity at some point in time during their season and for the Bows, Saturday against UC San Diego was that match. Moments before the national anthem took place, UH’s starting libero Tayli Ikenaga needed to be helped off the court and into the locker room after suffering a lower leg injury. A hush went through SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center as fans wondered not only the severity of Ikenaga’s injury, but whom would replace her at libero. It did throw a curveball into UH’s starting lineup and also into the rotation of those coming off the bench as former Michigan State libero Talia Edmonds donned the libero jersey. It also forced Caylen Alexander to become a primary passer and play all six rotations. Even with their 1-4 (all four losses came in five sets) Big West Conference record, the Tritons gave UH all they could handle and then some. For as great as they played the previous night where Head Coach Robyn Ah Mow gave her team an A-rating for the performance, UH had to hold off three UCSD set-points. A closer-than-expected opening set (UH won 27-25) was just a precursor of things to come as the Bows needed to hold off the Tritons in set two (30-28). For the first time at home this season in conference play, UH dropped a set as UCSD avoided the sweep for the 25-23 victory. Down early in the fourth set, UH tied it at 14 before closing it out on a 7-1 run and a walkoff ace by Talia Edmonds. Edmonds filled in quite nicely for the injured Ikenaga as she recorded a career-high 28 digs. It was the most digs by a UH player since Tita Akiu’s 34-dig performance in 2018. Caylen Alexander added her third double-double (16 kills and a career-high 14 digs) of the season, while Amber Igiede recorded her 12th-straight double-digit kill match (15 on 28 swings). But it was the Riley Wagoner show that aided UH to victory. A career-high 25 kills (her third career 20-plus kill match, two of which have come against UCSD) were the most by a UH player since Emily Maglio’s 27 in 2017.

Photo: David Croxford

It wasn’t pretty. UH took their fans on a roller-coaster ride. Seeing a teammate go down with injury, faced with changing the lineup on the fly moments before the start of the match, the Bows found a way to defend home court once again. Buoyed by another solid home crowd, UH went 2-0 in conference play for a third-straight week.

UH heads to Central California for Week 4 of BWC play. Two matches, back-to-back for the Bows sees them on the blue court at CSU Bakersfield before the showdown at Mott against Cal Poly. The Roadrunners picked up their first two conference wins last week, two sweeps over UC Davis and UC Riverside. After starting the season 0-7, the Mustangs have since won eight of their last nine (two 3-0 wins over UC Riverside and UC Davis). Keep in mind that if you’re planning to go watch UH and Cal Poly on Saturday, the Mustangs are asking their fans to wear black.

UH opened the week with an RPI of 41, buoyed by a very strong non-conference slate of opponents. The preseason favorite in the conference found different ways to come away with two wins at home this past week. Questions facing UH as they head into Week 4 include who will play on the right side, but also the health and status of Tayli Ikenaga. But one thing is for certain…this team won’t roll over and quit when facing adversity.


Photos: David Croxford