1 – Thankful Bows cash in. The word around the program after Senior Night was “thankful.” Thankful for a second chance at qualifying automatically for the NCAA Women’s Volleyball Championship. Thankful to take the first-round bye into Semifinal Friday of The 2023 Outrigger Big West Women’s Volleyball Championship. The seniors thankful for at least one more match with this Sistahhood that is Rainbow Wahine Volleyball 2023. Between the extra day of match rest and multiple two-to-three hour practices in preparation for the first conference tournament UH has played in since 2011 (when UH was in the Western Athletic Conference), the Bows were focused and locked in the moment they landed in Long Beach. Two 3-0 wins over the weekend propelled the Rainbow Wahine into the NCAA Championship for a 30th consecutive appearance, 41st all-time in program history.
2 – Serve receivers on point. Night one, UH faced the Tommi Stockham, the leader in the conference in service aces. The top hitter for Cal Poly, Stockham only had ten total serves with zero aces. For that semifinal match, UH only gave up two aces. In the championship against Long Beach State, Long Beach State’s Natalie Glenn came into the week as the top server in the conference by aces per set. Just nine serves from Glenn, she didn’t record an ace. In fact, no one from The Beach had an ace. In just six sets played, UH’s serve receivers of Tayli Ikenaga, Riley Wagoner, Caylen Alexander and Kendra Ham were only aced two times. The Bows were in system for the majority of both matches, hitting .297 against Cal Poly and .330 versus Long Beach State.
3 – No major awards, no problem. The five major awards handed out by the conference last week ahead of the tournament, none went to Hawai`i. Even with winning Setter of the Week eight times, even with being near or at the top of a couple statistical categories, Player of the Year when to Michelle Ohwobete (UCSB) and Setter of the Year went to Zayna Meyer (LBSU). This Sistahhood that is this 2023 Hawai`i Women’s Volleyball team has preached team concept all season long and not winning a major award didn’t bother Kate Lang nor Amber Igiede. Always quick to point out their teammates when receiving a weekly honor or when they individually have a great night, UH let their play do the talking during conference tournament week. No singular moment made this point clearer than when Amber Igiede was in the postmatch press conference and she was handed her Tournament MVP Trophy, Igiede fielded questions but did so after she put the trophy on the ground.
4 – Seniors shine in Long Beach. Two seniors (Amber Igiede and Riley Wagoner) set the tone in Set 1 against Cal Poly as both recorded six kills each. Wagoner notched 20 kills, had one service ace, went 25-of-25 on serve receive, recorded nine digs and was in on two blocks. Kennedi Evans picked up 11 kills on 18 attacks and had four blocks. Kendra Ham scored her second career double-double (10 kills and a career-high tying 18 digs) against Cal Poly, then went 7-1-12 to hit .500 against Long Beach State; Ham also added five service aces and five blocks. Igiede averaged 4.67 kills/set (28 total) and 1.17 blocks per set (7 total), to go along with four service aces and three digs. You need those in practice to push the starters and that’s what Talia Edmonds continues to do and of course, a bench that is engaged in the match and providing any sort of feedback to those on the floor. Chandler Cowell has continued to do that all season in her road to a successful recovery from ACL surgery.
5 – Defense wins championships. While the blocking numbers have been down a little, the digging numbers continue to rise. Despite getting outblocked by a small margin (4 to 3) against Cal Poly, UH outdug the Mustangs 62 to 46. Both nights, UH had numerous soft blocks that while they didn’t go down for stuff blocks, it slowed the attack down so the dig could happen and UH could then run their offense. The Bows were plus nine (29 to 22) in digs against Long Beach State but it was the block that travelled. UH dominated the net, with an 11-3 advantage in blocks. It marked the 10th time this season UH had 10 or more total team blocks, while Caylen Alexander shut down LBSU’s Natalie Glenn with three solo blocks.
6 – Bid stealers…UH’s streak continues. Many thought the Big West Conference was a one-bid league. An RPI in the mid 30s, UC Santa Barbara had a decent shot of an at-large should it not win the BWC Championship. Losing in the Friday Semifinal, UCSB had to wait a very long time come Selection Sunday before they saw their name on the screen. As one of the last four teams in, the Gauchos now head to the Stanford subregional to face 8-seed Houston. It’s the first NCAA trip for UCSB since 2019. The Rainbow Wahine didn’t want to leave anything in the hands of the selection committee. With two dominant wins in their conference tournament, UH punched their NCAA ticket for the 30th consecutive season and 41st time in program history. The road to Tampa begins in Eugene as UH faces 7-seed Iowa State (20-9, Big XII at-large) on Thursday. On the other side of the subregional is 2-seed Oregon (26-5, Pac-12 at-large) and Southeastern Louisiana (28-4, Southland auto-bid).