ESPN Honolulu Rainbow Wahine play-by-play voice Tiff Wells with his six biggest takeaways from the previous week for the Bows
1 – Defense suffocates efficient Florida State’s offense. Florida State came into the match as the NCAA leader in hitting percentage at .347. Not only did UH outhit the Seminoles .253 to .173 (season-low for FSU in 2023), but the Rainbow Wahine won both the dig (67-58) and block (11-7) categories. Yes Florida State didn’t have one of their top pin hitters available, but UH more than held their own against a Power 5 member for the neutral site victory and a very nice bullet point on their resume. Being in the same conference (ACC) as Louisville, Pitt, Miami and Georgia Tech, this win over the Seminoles could be an RPI gold mine for UH with these big-time conference matches for Florida State.
2 – Alexander shines in the Lone Star State. Sophomore outside hitter Caylen Alexander filled the stat sheet in all three matches this past week at The Fight in the Fort en route to her being named to the All-Tournament Team (along with Amber Igiede). Three consecutive double-doubles (21 kills and 10 digs at TCU, 11 kills and 16 digs against Western Carolina, 15 kills and 11 digs versus Florida State) was one of the reasons UH went 2-1 over the weekend.
3 – Opportunity seized by Ham. Making her first start of the season at TCU this past Thursday, Senior pin hitter Kendra Ham was given the opportunity on the right side in place of Tali Hakas. While eight kills and hitting .042 doesn’t sound like eye popping offensive numbers, she responded on day two by going career (career highs of 12 kills and a .476 hitting percentage) and en route to the double-double against Western Carolina. Three blocks, 13 digs, an ace and six kills overshadowed the .000 hitting percentage against Florida State which could have solidified the right-side position for now for Kendra Ham as we enter conference play.
4 – Win some, lose some. After a long day of travel and arriving into Dallas at 4:00 am on Wednesday, UH closed the first set at TCU (27-25) and oh what could have been, leading 24-20 in set two before seeing the Horned Frogs steal the set (27-25)…the momentum…and the match with a 3-1 victory. It was a nice bounce back for UH with the 3-0 win over Western Carolina, but UH needed extended runs midway through each set to close out the Catamounts. It wasn’t convincing, but it was a win nonetheless. The longest set of the season to date, a 32-30 set one win for UH against Florida State then saw UH come from behind to steal set 2 25-23…and the match as UH blew out the Seminoles 25-13 for their second consecutive 3-0 win and a 2-1 finish at TCU.
5 – Non-Conference closes with a winning record. A year ago saw UH begin the season 0-3 before finishing the non-conference slate at 3-5. This year, UH finished the non-conference with a 7-4 record. Three wins over the Power 5 (two versus USC-who has since won five in a row and a big win at nationally ranked Purdue, and one win against Florida State) will be a nice boost for UH. Up 10-7 in the fifth set against Liberty, UH would love to have that set back. The inability to close out sets against UCLA and TCU prevented the Rainbow Wahine from possibly being 9-2, or even 10-1 heading into Big West Conference play. Four of the 11 BWC teams finished with an above .500 non-conference record (UCSB at 10-2, UCSD at 8-4, UH at 7-4 and LBSU at 6-4).
6 – Wagoner saves best for last. Senior outside hitter Riley Wagoner struggled offensively the first two days in Fort Worth where she had just nine kills on 47 attempts to go along with eight hitting errors. On night one against TCU, she was also substituted out of the match. Against Florida State on the third and final day, Wagoner bounced back to hit .257 en route to her fifth double-double (12 kills, 10 digs) of the season. Her offense provided opportunities for both of UH middles (Igiede and Evans) to outperform the FSU middle tandem. Igiede had 14 kills to hit .462 and three blocks, while Kennedi Evans tied her career high with eight kills and established UH highs for her in both hitting percentage (.467) and blocks (seven).