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Week 12 | 6 takeaways for Rainbow Warrior Volleyball 2024

1 – Pass Well, Middles Can Work. It’s a simple game. Serve and pass well, you’ll be in nearly every match. With the night one passing not at its usual self, Hawai`i struggled in the 3-0 loss, hitting just .204 (37-18-93). The Bows saw only 15 of the 93 sets go to the middle tandem of Guilherme Voss and Kurt Nusterer as setter Tread Rosenthal was consistently setting the ball from eight-to-ten feet off the net, sometimes further away. While the passing game did yield six aces on night two, UH did well enough to receive a ton of offensive production from the duo. Voss hit .538 (8-1-13), while his counterpart Nusterer scored five kills on 10 errorless swings. The top two blockers on the team were in on 10 of the 13 total team blocks as UH notched its seventh match of the year with double-digit blocks.

2 – Adjustments Into Night Two. After being outplayed on night one with UC Irvine winning nearly every statistical category, UH didn’t make a starting lineup change heading into the second match. They did however flip the lineup to have Keoni Thiim as its first server, just giving themselves some new matchups that they eventually took advantage of. Even with the 25-22 set loss in Set 1, it was the way they played that had you feeling this match would be different. Even with six reception errors, UH passed well enough to distribute the offense a lot better. Five attackers had seven or more kills as UH outhit UCI .362 to .146 (after UCI outhit UH .425 to .204 on night one). With just three blocks in the first match (their second fewest in a match this season), UH responded with 13 blocks (seventh time this season with 10 or more). But it was also the block touches that allowed UH to out-dig one of the best defensive teams in the conference 44-to-40.  

3 – Love Those Serving Subs. As Assistant Coach Kupono Fey mentioned to us in Saturday’s Tony Group post-match show, one of the many shoutouts he gave was to the two serving subs, Kevin Kauling and Kai Taylor. While neither recorded an ace in their combined 16 serves off the bench, it was their constant pressure and scoring runs that helped UH win the final three sets. Down 21-19 in Set 2, Taylor came in to serve three times and left with UH down 22-21. His serving sub was also after the lengthy delay due to the injury to UC Irvine’s Nolan Flexan. In Set 3, it was Taylor’s serving run that extended UH’s lead from 18-13 to 20-14 and then Kevin Kauling served the final two points to help the Bows take the 2-1 match lead. Kauling then came in Set 4 and got UH to match point (and nearly served the match winning point that was later overturned on a challenge). It is very tough to come into the match and be productive. And while neither scored an ace, both were effective with their serving to aid UH over those final three sets.

4 – Bows Take Advantage Of An Unfortunate Injury. Late in set 2, UC Irvine’s Nolan Flexen dove headfirst into the courtside seats trying to save a ball. He ended up leaving the set with the Anteaters leading 21-19. With UCI having utilized two service subs, it was a reserve freshman hitter who checked into match and UH did all they could to attack him at every remaining point. Hitting every ball in his direction, Rosenthal setting the hitter who was lined up against the UCI sub, UH tied the set at 21, 22, 23 and 24 (after fighting off a set point). The Bows got the advantage at 25-24 and while UCI tied the set at 25, it was back-to-back kills from Alaka`i Todd (after a Louis Sakanoko kick save on a dig) that gave UH the 27-25 set win (their first set win of the series) to tie the match at 1 and gave them the momentum for the rest of the match.

5 – Slowed Down Henno On Night Two. One of the top attackers in the country, UC Irvine’s Hilir Henno had a career-high 36 kills in the first meeting at Hawai`i back on March 10th. In the first match of the series, Henno was blocked on his first swing. He wouldn’t commit another hitting error the rest of the night as scored 20 kills on his final 25 swings, hitting a season-high .679. While he did get his 13 kills in the second match, UH made him work for them. Eight hitting errors on 48 total swings, UH frustrated Henno in hitting .104 and while we know and have seen him go off from the service line, the Bows did well enough on serve receive to get Henno off the line as quick as possible. In the seven sets played over the weekend, Henno recorded just two service aces over 33 total serves, with five errors. In slowing down the top offensive option for UCI, UH also forced a change at setter for the Anteaters and in addition, the Anteaters hit just .146 for the match (.000 in Set 3 and -.040 in the fourth set).

6 – Be Proud Of The Fight. Yes it looks different for UH, post Spyros Chakas. The Bows are 4-4 since losing their captain to the season-ending injury. While the style of play sometimes isn’t the beautiful volleyball Hawai`i fans are accustomed to seeing, UH is learning on the fly of how to play for, but without their glue-guy. A rotating left-side has also seen usual starter and senior Chaz Galloway now available off the bench. And with one experienced middle who’s been a starter the last three years (Voss), everyone else in the starting lineup is a first-year starter. There are some growing pains throughout each match and it’s a dog-fight match in and match out. As long as the effort is on the floor for each match here on out, that’s all that fans can ask for of this team in the final matches of #WarriorBall24. All-out effort in the backrow from `Eleu Choy, Keoni Thiim (match-high 12 digs on night two) and Louis Sakanoko (eight digs on night two) helped the Bows earn the important series split against Irvine to get back to .500 (4-4) in Big West Conference play with two matches remaining at UC San Diego.