Volleyball Rainbows rout UTEP
Second-ranked Hawai'i blew by Texas-El Paso, 30-13, 30-21, 30-20, last night before the largest crowd (1,325) in UTEP volleyball history. Some 4,000 miles away, junior Maja Gustin listened to her teammates play their first road match on the radio.
The unbeaten Rainbow Wahine (14-0, 4-0 WAC) play at Southern Methodist tomorrow morning before coming home to face Notre Dame Monday and Tuesday. They play WAC rivals San Jose State and Fresno State next Thursday and Friday. Gustin says she hopes to "see some action" in those matches. She knows her status is "day to day," but insists she is ready. UH coach Dave Shoji is more cautious.
Until he puts her in, all she can do is wait and listen. Yesterday, she was surprised at how quickly her teammates blitzed the Miners (7-9, 2-3) in the first game. Lily Kahumoku went for 11 of her match-high 25 kills as Hawai'i hit .571 and Hedder Ilustre served 10 straight points to put the game away.
What was Shoji telling his team in the midst of the blitz? "Focus on our side," Gustin said without hesitation. "He'll just talk about skills. He's crazy on skills."
Early in the second game, the Miners stuffed Kim Willoughby, who would go on to gather her 10th double-double of the season (17 kills, 10 digs).
Gustin grinned. "That's big time for them," she said. "Kim is not average at all. If they dig her or block her, that's it something you remember forever."
The stuff was the start of the Rainbows' only rough spot of the night. UTEP closed within one (12-11) and Gustin shook her head.
"That's the challenge for us," she said as her teammates got sloppy. "Every team is a challenge. We need to go through the WAC and stay at a certain level.
"What we have in mind going into one of these matches is don't lose your energy. When you start playing loose, you have to expend more energy."
Ahead 17-15, Hawai'i scored seven straight points to seize control. The third game was never in question though the Miners kept the score respectable with a series of off-speed shots that frustrated the Rainbows.
"When teams hit tips and roll shots, that's when it's hard to predict," Gustin said. "You want to say to them, 'Come on, hit the ball.' "
Even with the unorthodox offense, UTEP hit just .028 for the night to Hawai'i's .427. The Rainbows out-roofed the Miners 12 1/2-2, with Lauren Duggins and Jennifer Carey dropping in on seven stuffs apiece. Hawai'i had six aces to UTEP's one as defensive specialists Ilustre and Ashley Watanabe each served up two.
Shoji's and Gustin's one disappointment was the imbalance of the offense. The UH middles only took 19 swings, while its All-America hitters combined for 67.
"We got a little loose at the start of the second game, but they didn't have anybody who could slow down Lily or Kim so we just went outside," Shoji said. "Lily was so hot early. They tried to stop her, but I don't think they understood how hard she hits."
QUICK SETS: Tomorrow's match at SMU will be broadcast live on 1420 AM with the pregame starting at 5:45 a.m. HST. ... UTEP's record crowd included the UH soccer team.