Monday, November 14, 2022
By: Tiff Wells
There hasn’t been a lot of major tweaking to the starting lineup and their in-match rotation of players. Depending on whether UH begins with serve or receive, you know the starting seven and the primary substitutions. With three weeks left in the regular season, UH controls its own postseason fate and for the moment, doesn’t need to rely on outside help. Focus on your side of the net. Control what you can control. An upset to another top team would be nice, but you can’t bet on it. Continue to win and the outside help won’t be needed.
Hawai`i struggled in the first meeting against UC San Diego earlier last month and many felt UH would again have issues with the Tritons in meeting two in La Jolla. Each of the first three sets in that first matchup were decided by two points. Keep in mind that for that first match, UH was without two starters (pin hitter Braelyn Akana and libero Tayli Ikenaga) and one of them (Ikenaga) was injured in the last moments of pre-match warmups. The some of the parts and entire depth won that first meeting in a tight four set affair. Back to full strength and its original lineup, UH dominated. Some players just have great individual matchups against certain teams and for UH’s floor captain Riley Wagoner, her last three matches against the Tritons have been something else. 20 kills and 15 digs last year at UCSD, 25 kills in the first meeting this season. Wagoner put together her second-straight double-double of the season as she went for 14 kills and 11 digs, hitting a very impressive .480. Seven of those kills came in the opening set as UH won 25-14. What was an 8-all tied turned into a 17-6 extended run to close the set. Amber Igiede had five of her 12 kills in the set as well. Everything was working for UH…offense, defense, serving, transitioning. The ability to close a set occurred again as the Bows turned a 9-4 lead into a 25-19 second set victory. UH only hit .200 but held the Tritons to .100 to take a 2-0 lead in the match. No let down in the third as the Bows raced to a 9-2 lead and comfortably led the rest of the way. All but one reserve saw action as the 25-15 victory closed out the opening match of the road-trip 3-0. UH held UCSD to a .127 hitting percentage. After being outblocked 12-6 in the first meeting, UH returned the favor to dominate at the net, 7-2 in blocks.
UH has done a pretty good job when facing a team for the second time this season of slowing down the number one option. Tritons’ left-side hitter Ava McInnes came into the match leading the conference in kills and was top-three in kills per set, close to four kills per set. She did lead the team with 10 kills, but hit just .139. It would be a quick turnaround for the Bows as they bussed to Irvine after the match with a 5:00 pm Saturday match start time against the Anteaters.
In the first meeting with UCI, UH hit a season best .471. Entering the week, the Anteaters led the conference in both digs per set and opponent hitting percentage, while ranking second in blocks per set. With UH’s league leading offense in both kills per set and hitting percentage, something had to give here where defense met offense. The opening set against UC Irvine had momentum swings on both sides. UH held a 7-point lead (12-5) only to see the Anteaters retake the lead at 23-22. If you wanted offense, that set wasn’t for you as the Bows hit .077 compared to UCI’s .045 in a 25-23 opening set UH win. A 7-3 UH lead in Set 2 was all UH needed as they never trailed, cruising to a 25-13 win and a 2-0 lead. UH didn’t get its first lead of the third set until 13-12. UH swept the Anteaters 3-0 (23-13-20). Buoyed by the fan support that included many alumnae of the program in attendance.