Monday, October 31, 2022
By: Tiff Wells
Advantage Hawai`i entering the second half of conference play. Sure you still have to go to Santa Barbara and host both Cal Poly and red hot Long Beach State. But for now, you’re one game up in the loss column on both UC Santa Barbara and Cal Poly. Control your own destiny to the 2022 Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship by winning out the rest of the way. Easier said then done, right? The final 10 matches of the Big West Conference season has UH on the road for six and at home for the other four. UH was back out on the road again this week and for the lone conference road-trip, this one gave the Bows a travel day in between matches.
Slow starts have been the norm for UH but in Thursday’s match at UC Riverside, that was anything the case. UH raced out to a 9-1 lead. And then, the lengthy scoring run for the opponent. Somehow, someway, UCR tied up the set at 19. A closing run of 6-2 gave UH the first set 25-21. Leads of 10-2 and 15-4 in the second set paved the way for a 25-15 set victory. Even with the set victory and 2-0 match lead, offensively it was ugly…for both teams. UH hit .094 and UCR hit -.050. Defense and tough serving gave UH the stranglehold in the match lead. The first lead of the match for the Highlanders came at 2-1 in the third set. The lead grew to 5-3. Then UH took over. A 19-7 extended run blew the set open to 22-12 as UH would win the set 25-15 and the match 3-0. Now 30 straight sets won by the Rainbow Wahine over the Highlanders. What more can you say about Amber Igiede? 11 kills, hit .500, eight blocks. A welcome addition to UH’s offense was some consistent right-side production. Braelyn Akana showed out. 10 kills on 13 swings, hitting .692. Nearly everyone got in and it’s real wholesome watching the starters cheer the success of the reserves when they are given a chance to get on the court.
A travel day. A day in between matches. Something that never happens to UH during their other four conference roadtrips. Also something that rarely happens in a match…no lead changes. And this Saturday match at UC Davis would go the distance. Another slow start to begin the match and yet, UH was down by just two at 17-15. An 8-1 UC Davis run closed the set to give them the 25-16 set victory. Another norm for this program is when a set goes bad, the team finds the tunnel behind their bench and well, there’s some talking that goes on. Whatever was said worked and motivated the Bows as they hit .458 for the set (13-2-24) and won it 25-12 to tie the match at one. For as lopsided as the first two sets, the third was anything but. 10 total ties and UH needed four set point opportunities to close the set at 28-26 and take a 2-1 lead in the match. At this same time, Long Beach and Cal Poly were also going to a fourth set. Three of the top four teams in action simultaneously. A 25-19 Aggies victory in set four forced the winner-take-all fifth. Needing that quick start, UH got it at 2-0. And never looked back. UC Davis got as close as 5-4 but then it was all Hawai`i thereafter as the Bows won the set 15-9 and the match 3-2, their 17th straight victory over UC Davis. Offensively, it just wasn’t Riley Wagoner’s night. Averaging over three kills per set on the season, Wagoner was held to just five for the match and that fifth gave UH an aloha ball opportunity. Her solo block ended the match. 11 digs, 30/33 on serve receive, a service ace and three assists continued to showcase that when it’s not working offensively, she won’t let it affect the other aspects of her game. With the offensive struggles of UH’s floor captain, others stepped up. Freshman Caylen Alexander tied her career-high with 18 kills (hitting .385), while Braelyn Akana chipped in with 9 kills (hitting .375).
Three milestones were accomplished in the win. Amber Igiede recorded her 800th kill of the match, Riley Wagoner hit the 600 career kill mark and Head Coach Robyn Ah Mow won her 100th match as UH’s Head Coach. And a wholesome moment moments after the match and it was sad there wasn’t any stream for this match. After Wagoner’s block gave UH the match, players rushed the floor briefly to celebrate the win and then while the coaches embraced on their own near the bench, they were then soon joined by the entire team. As UH celebrated, Long Beach State also did as they beat Cal Poly in 5 sets as well. LBSU brings in an 8-match win streak into their match against Cal State Fullerton prior to coming to Honolulu on Friday night. Cal Poly now has three conference losses. UC Santa Barbara had an easy 3-0 win at home against UC San Diego on Sunday afternoon.
Eight matches remain and now for UH, the next one just got even bigger. AND it’s against longtime rival Long Beach State. The Bows know how quick of an offense LBSU likes to run and also how often they like to run attacks from the back row, resembling that of men’s volleyball. UH is undefeated at home in conference play and with an archrival in town, you know the crowd will be amped just a little bit more when the Black and Gold step onto the teraflex Friday night.