By: Tiff Wells
1 – Middles lead the way. The senior middle blocker tandem of Amber Igiede and Kennedi Evans led the way as Hawai`i recorded two 3-0 wins, their 11th and 12th sweeps of the season. On Friday in Northridge, they combined for 20 kills on 28 swings with just one hitting errors and hit .679 (Igiede: 10-0-13, season-high .769 and Evans: 10-1-15, career-high .600). At Bakersfield on Saturday, they combined for 23 kills and five hitting errors on 46 attempts to hit .391 (Igiede: 16-5-35, .314 and Evans: 7-0-11, career-high .636). These kind of hitting numbers from the middles is a testament to great first-ball contact off serve receive and both setters (Kate Lang and Jackie Matias) finding the middle blockers.
2 – Offense…and defense travels to the continent. The saying goes, “offense wins games, defense wins championships.” UH hit .367 (44-11-90) on Friday in Northridge and then went 47-12-107 to hit .327 on Saturday in Bakersfield. As they enter November, UH is hitting .245 on the season…that number continues to go up because in conference-only matches, the Bows are hitting .284. Four consecutive matches now UH has hit over .300. As efficient as the offense has been, the defense has been stout. CSUN hit just .111 (25-15-90) on Friday and Cal State Bakersfield hit .183 (31-14-93). Through 12 conference matches, UH is holding its opponents to a .123 hitting percentage. After the match against the Roadrunners, it’s now the 14th straight match UH has held its opponent below a .200 hitting percentage.
3 – 3 teams clinch tourney bids, 3 bids remain. With just six conference matches remaining ahead of the 2023 Outrigger Big West Women’s Volleyball Championship during Thanksgiving Week in Long Beach, three teams (UC Santa Barbara, Hawai`i and Long Beach State) have clinched bids while the remaining three bids are up for grabs. After Friday’s stunning loss at UC Irvine, UC Santa Barbara sits at 11-1 with four home matches and two on the road (Cal Poly, Hawai`i). Both UH and Long Beach State sit at 10-2. Hawai`i also has four matches at home (Cal Poly, UCSB and LBSU) and two on the road. LBSU has two at home and then ends the season with four straight on the road. Cal Poly has five of their remaining six matches at home. Remember that the top two teams earn a bye into the Semifinals. A huge week in the conference as UC Santa Barbara heads to Cal Poly on Halloween night for a rivalry match before both teams come to play at Hawai`i (Friday: Cal Poly at Hawai`i, Saturday: UC Santa Barbara at Hawai`i). The Mustangs have all but clinched a bid, while UC Davis and UC Irvine have the inside track on the final two spots.
4 – Irvine moves from The Bren to Crawford. Due to a facilities issue (later learned it being a water pipe bursting near the loading dock to the arena and leaked onto the floor), UC Irvine moved their two matches this past week from The Bren Events Center to Crawford Court. More so used by both their basketball and volleyball teams for practice, this 800-seat facility was the site where UC Irvine upset then No.25 UC Santa Barbara last Friday. The next night, Crawford Court hosted Cal Poly and UC Irvine. This issue is important as a Rainbow Wahine fan because on November 10th, Hawai`i plays at UC Irvine. A lot of UH practices are in Gym 1, which kind of resembles Crawford Court. It remains to be seen as to which facility UH will play in their visit to UCI, but as a UH fan, it’s something to keep an eye on, especially if you plan to attend that match.
5 – All business on the road trip. For the first time this season, UH won the opening match of a road trip (78-minute 3-0 win at CSUN). It was a 94-minute victory, also in straight sets…this time at Cal State Bakersfield on the second match of the road trip to give UH its fifth win in a row, a season-high. Two wins over teams with RPIs over 260 won’t help UH at all but the Rainbow Wahine haven’t done what the other top conference teams have done when playing teams with that kind of RPI number…lose a set…lose two sets…or lose the match. Through 12 conference matches, UH has played the minimum number of sets against everyone in conference not named UC Santa Barbara or Cal Poly. One final regular season road trip to UC Irvine and Cal State Fullerton in two weeks for the Bows who are now 5-3 away from (5-2 in road conference matches). Taking care of potential trap road matches at Northridge and Bakersfield sets up a big homestand for Hawai`i, where they will wear some pretty sweet retro uniforms against Cal Poly and UC Santa Barbara.
6 – Efficient serving…no free points. Friday’s match at Northridge saw UH record six aces with just five errors and serving in at a 93% rate. On Saturday at Bakersfield, the Bows served five aces and tied a season-low with just three errors. UH routinely hit their targeted areas of serve and rarely served out or in the net. The focus…the attention to detail as UH routinely served the ball in play to allow their defense the opportunity to go to work limited the number of easy points. Yes the Rainbow Wahine don’t record a lot of service aces and no one uses a spin serve, but UH is the top team in digs per set (15.44/set), second in opponent hitting percentage (.171) and sixth in blocks per set (2.17/set). In addition, UH had a total of 23 hitting errors in those six played this past weekend (averaging less than four per set).