By: Tiff Wells
1 – Mānoa Magic strikes again. On Senior Night, Hawai`i began the match with serve. Long Beach State sided out and then the run began. UH didn’t get their first kill until it was 12-3. It wasn’t until 16-4 when Amber Igiede scored her first kill. If you’re going to get down in a set, have it happen early enough to give yourself enough time in the set to try and make a comeback. Most teams down 16-5 would fold and just get ready for the next set. Even with the ups and down of 2023 for Rainbow Wahine volleyball, a Robyn Ah Mow team doesn’t quit in a set. Senior Kendra Ham goes on a 10-0 serving run to get UH back into the set at 18-all. UH took their first lead at 20-19. Siding out off first-ball contact and keeping the two-point cushion, the comeback was complete with a Beach service error (their sixth of the set). Also a huge credit to the season-high crowd of 7,265 who stayed behind the home team at the beginning of the set and urged them on during the comeback; many of them also gave UH a standing ovation once the set comeback was complete.
2 – Seniors with their fingerprints all over senior weekend. It comes fast. You come in as a freshman or as a transfer. In the blink of an eye, it’s your senior weekend…your senior night. Chandler Cowell was vocal, both in the huddle and from standing with the reserves. Talia Edmonds with five digs and an assist against UC San Diego, and also got the match point serve in play which ultimately led to a UH point. Kendra Ham recorded eight kills, 12 digs, two blocks and had six aces, including a career-high four against LBSU. It was also Ham’s 10-0 serving run that helped UH get back into that first set versus The Beach. Kennedi Evans ended sets 1 and 3 against UC San Diego with kills. For the weekend, Evans went 11-0-25 with two blocks. Riley Wagoner put down nine kills and recorded nine digs. But it was the serve-receive where Wagoner really made her presence felt as she went 56-of-57. Amber Igiede started the weekend well, where she went 5-0-6 in Set 1 against UCSD. 14 kills, one ace, two digs and two blocks was just a taste of what UH fans would see on her Senior Night. A season-high tying 21 kills (including the match ending kill) on 37 swings, including three digs and four blocks against LBSU left Igiede with one of the more amazing individual performances from a Rainbow Wahine senior on senior night.
3 – Hakas on night one, Alexander on night two. Reigning Big West Conference Freshman of the Week Tali Hakas began senior week where she left off from the previous week as she notched a career-high 12 kills on 28 swings to hit .286. Hakas added four digs as UH swept UC San Diego on Friday. With Hakas struggling early on against Long Beach State and then not seeing match action in the final three sets…welcome back Caylen Alexander. From a starter early on in 2023 to coming off the bench here and there, the sophomore provided a spark late in set against UCSD before going off on Saturday (again, coming off the bench) against Long Beach. Five of her seven kills against the Tritons came in the third set and then she nearly stole the show on Senior Night. 19 kills to hit .250, she added an ace, nine digs and was in on two blocks (including a solo stuff with her left hand), Alexander became the latest pin hitter to carry the load from the outside. With teams focusing their attention on Igiede, one of the pin hitters will need to be consistent and help carry the load come Conference Tournament week.
4 – Hello 2-seed…and bye. With the two wins over UC San Diego and Long Beach State, Hawai`i earned the second seed in the Outrigger Big West Women’s Volleyball Championship. By virtue of the third tiebreaker (a better sets won/loss record in conference play) over Cal Poly, UH will not play until Semifinal Friday. Awaiting UH is the winner of the Quarterfinal between 3-seed Cal Poly and 6-seed UC Davis. While on the other side of the bracket, top seed UC Santa Barbara awaits the winner of 4-seed Long Beach State and 5-seed UC Irvine. Having finished three games back of UCSB in the conference standings, who would have thought that in year one of the conference having a postseason tournament, that UH (21-8, 14-4 and an RPI of 69 at the end of the regular season) would need this conference to have a tournament to earn their shot into the NCAA Tournament.
5 – Hey diddle diddle, run either middle. Everyone knows that when Amber Igiede is in the front row, more often than not Kate Lang (or Jackie Matias) will set Igiede. And rightfully so. 35 kills on 61 swings in seven sets, Igiede was her usual self. Not to be outdone, redshirt senior Kennedi Evans continued to showcase why opponents should at least respect her offensive game. 7 kills on 14 errorless swings against UCSD on Friday, Evans went 4-0-11 on Saturday against Long Beach State. Known more for her blocking, the continued growth offensively from Evans is at least forcing the opponent to keep an eye on her when she is in the front row.
6 – Different ways to win…again. On Friday it was the efficient offense. 52 kills on 115 swings as UH hit .313 in their second sweep of UC San Diego in 2023. Both matches for the Tritons, UH hit over .300. It marked the 11th time this season UH as a team has hit over .300, nine of those 11 have come in conference play. The Bows also sided out at 75.5% (50-of-67) off first-ball contact. Against Long Beach State on Saturday, it was proving that sometimes stats lie. UH was outhit (.276 to .216) and outblocked (8 to 5). But the Bows won the two close sets (25-23, 25-23) and then in the closing fourth, the Rainbow Wahine outhit The Beach .357 to .053 and sided out at 77% (14-of-18) off first-ball contact. UH also utilized an all-out defensive effort to extend plays that more often than not resulted in a Long Beach State error.