At the Net: A Rainbow Wahine Volleyball Blog by Tiff Wells | Week 8

At the Net: A Rainbow Wahine Volleyball Blog by Tiff Wells | Week 8

Sunday, October 16, 2022

By: Tiff Wells

Two schools that aren’t easy to get to and playing them on a back-to-back nights. That’s what was in front of Hawai`i entering week four of Big West Conference play. The bigger matchup was the anticipated sellout on night two with Cal Poly on Saturday. The Mustangs were pushed to five sets earlier in the week on the blue court at Bakersfield and held on for the 15-13 fifth set victory. They then waited three days while UH traveled and made their way to Bakersfield…also a five-set match.

Without the services of libero Tayli Ikenaga (injured in prematch warmups against UC San Diego last week and was back home rehabbing to get ready for the next week), Talia Edmonds once again got the nod as the libero against the Roadrunners. Two things that have hurt the Rainbow Wahine this season…slow starts and lengthy scoring runs by their opponent showed up once again on this road-trip. The opening set of the road-trip saw UH never lead as they were down in the match by a set after falling 25-23. Even though they lost the set, UH battled back to nearly steal the victory, but gave them a ton of momentum heading into set two. UH restored order against a pesky CSUB team by taking sets two and three (25-15, 25-14) to lead the match 2-1. UH had won all four of the previous meetings with the Roadrunners and for the first ever time, it would go the distance as CSUB took set 4 25-18. Important to get off to a hot start in that fifth set, UH quickly led 2-0 and never looked back. Buoyed by 10 kills and an 87% sideout percentage off first-ball contact (7-of-8), the Bows held on for the 15-18 victory and a 3-2 match win. Entering the week, UH was the most efficient offense and it was on display once again as for the fourth time in six conference matches, UH hit over .300 (64-23-134, .306). Reigning BWC Offensive Player of the Week Riley Wagoner led the way with 19 kills, Amber Igiede added 17 kills and eight blocks, while four-time BWC Freshman of the Week Caylen Alexander recorded 11 kills and Tiffany Westerberg chipped in 10. A surprise of the match was the blocking as UH had 11 total team blocks, the fourth time this season they have had double-digit blocks.

Just like last year when CSU Bakersfield and Cal Poly were travel partners, UH bussed to San Luis Obispo after the CSUB match. Mott Athletics Center has been a problem for the Bows. UH has lost three of its last four at Cal Poly. An expected sellout crowd, dressed in black awaited the Bows as the entered the loud facility. Facing a team that arguably has the best pin-hitting tandem in Outside Hitter Tommi Stockham and Opposite Maia Dvoracek, UH’s defense would have its hands full with the Mustangs. Despite being down early in the first set, UH battled back to take its first lead at 10-9. As mentioned earlier, one of the issues UH has faced at points in the season reared its ugly head as the Mustangs scored the final six points to win set one 25-22 (which included an overturned call that favored Cal Poly). A marathon set two saw Cal Poly have six point opportunities…and they couldn’t convert any of them. UH had two of their own, but needed a third to finally win the set…33-31 and tie the match at one. Again, UH had leads of 15-14 and 21-20 in set three, but couldn’t close and couldn’t sideout. The Mustangs scored five straight points to win the set 25-21. For as close as the first three sets were, set four was completely different. The Mustangs raced to a 16-8 lead and it led to substitutes Mylana Byrd and Chandler Cowell coming into the match. Down but not out, the Bows would mount a comeback. Service aces from Talia Edmonds helped UH get to within a point at 16-17. That’s as close as UH got as the Mustangs scored eight of the next 11 points to win 25-19 and snap their three-match losing streak to UH.

UH stayed true to their gameplan of targeting Cal Poly’s Tommi Stockham on serve. A main problem was Maia Dvoracek. The Bows had no answer for the Mustang opposite as she put down 21 kills on 37 swings to hit .514, while adding in four service aces and 14 digs. For a fourth time in the last five meetings in San Luis Obispo, UH came up short. Outside of service aces (UH 10-8), Cal Poly won every statistical category (58-52 in kills, .313 to .145 in hitting percentage, 49-45 in digs and 14-7 in blocks).

A loss isn’t the end of the world for this team with 12 conference matches remaining (two of which are at home against both UC Santa Barbara and Cal Poly). Hawai`i, Cal Poly and UC Santa Barbara are all tied for first-place at 7-1. UCSB is 1-0 this year against Cal Poly. A big matchup on the island this Saturday as UC Santa Barbara faces the Rainbow Wahine. UH is eager for payback after losing both matches to the Gauchos a year ago. A night prior to the UCSB match, the Bows host CSUN as week five will take us to the halfway point in Big West Conference play. What’s the status of Tayli Ikenaga and her injury? Will she be medically cleared and ready to play? Who will get the start on the right side and will there be some offensive production from whomever is there? Those are just a couple of questions!