Wahine volleyball swept again
By Lori Gilbert
Special to The Advertiser
STOCKTON, Calif. The next time Hawai'i women's volleyball team visits Pacific, it won't be 100 degrees outside and fans won't be wearing shorts. The fog will have settled into the San Joaquin Valley by the time the Wahine show up for the Bankers Classic during Thanksgiving weekend.
Hawai'i's Kim Willoughby splits the Wisconsin block of Sherisa Livingston, left, and Lizzy Fitzgerald for one of her match-high 21 kills.
The fifth-ranked Wahine looked better on defense yesterday. They settled on setter Jennifer Carey and found a second offensive weapon in sophomore Maja Gustin to join Kim Willoughby. But that was not enough, as they dropped their second match of the State Farm Volleyball Classic, losing 30-22, 31-29, 30-26 to fourth-ranked Wisconsin at the Spanos Center.
Top-ranked Nebraska won the tournament title with a 30-21, 32-30, 27-30, 30-24 victory over No. 12 Pacific.
If the Wahine improved on their performance of Friday night when they were swept by Nebraska, it was just a baby step for this rebuilding team.
"We dug a lot more balls tonight, played better defense," coach Dave Shoji said. "We didn't make as many unforced errors in the hitting department. But we still have along way to go."
Specifically on offense, where Willoughby (21 kills) and Gustin (16) were the only players who made an impact.
"We got some offense tonight out of Kim and Maja, but we really need to get some kills out of our other three positions, which we intend to do," Shoji said. "We intend to work on that. We can't set two people all night and expect to beat a good team."
Not a team as solid as Wisconsin, which bounced back from its opening loss to host Pacific.
The Badgers reduced their hitting errors to 13 after committing 36 in a four-game loss to the Tigers, and took advantage of a limited Hawai'i attack. Wisconsin built a 4-1 lead in the first game and never trailed, scoring five consecutive points on Lisa Zukowski's serve for a 21-13 advantage.
Hawai'i was stymied by a .047 hitting percentage, but picked up its attack in the second game. The Wahine fought back from 28-25 to tie it at 28 on a Willoughby blast, then turned to the athletic outside hitter to tie again at 29. But Carey touched the net to give Wisconsin a 30-29 lead, and middle Lauren Duggins hit a shot out to end the game.
The third game was fairly close, although the Wahine found themselves battling back throughout. Wisconsin took a 27-22 lead, but Gustin prevented the Badgers from closing it out. She fired a shot that landed for a kill, saved a point by hitting down the line on a bad set, then put down another kill and served an ace to make the final score closer.
But the Badgers were determined.
"Since we lost last night we came back with a lot more fire," Zukowski said. "We changed some things and came out more aggressive."
Zukowski, for one, showed that aggression, drilling six of Wisconsin's eight aces with her jump serve.
"They got no service aces last night and they had eight today, so either their serving got a lot better or our passing is still very, very weak," Shoji noted.
Still, Carey was able to work with it more successfully than she had the night before when she gave way to Margaret Vakasausau for the final two games against Nebraska.
She set Willoughby 46 times, Gustin 34 and outside hitter Tanja Nikolic 22.
Willougby, an all-tournament selection, was a threat for a second night and Gustin, who shared Western Athletic Conference Freshman-of-the-Year honors with Willoughby last season, established a presence in the second and third games..
"I thought, 'I need to do much, much more for my team,' " Gustin said. "I did a little bit today but not enough. I still need to do much, much more."
The Wahine all have more to do but learned valuable lessons as they return home 0-2.
"I think the tournament was really good for us because now we can see where we are, and now we can build our team on it," Gustin said. "It was a good experience. We'll take advantage from that, keep going and never give up. And we will see what happens at the end of the season."