Rainbow Wahine remain unbeaten
By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer
Fresno State gave itself one chance to upset the second-ranked volleyball team in the country last night.
Once was not enough.
Hawai'i barely held the Bulldogs off in the first game and muzzled them in the last two to win their WAC West match 30-28, 30-17, 30-26 before approximately 6,000 at Stan Sheriff Center.
"We were up and down the whole night," UH coach Dave Shoji said. "It was not pretty. The effort was there but it was just not smooth. We were definitely fatigued, or mentally tired. But they find a way to dig down pretty deep and make the plays at the end."
The Rainbow Wahine (18-0) moved a full match ahead of Nevada next week's opponent in Reno at 7-0 and extended their school-record streak of game victories to 42. Fresno (18-3), which would have vaulted into first place with a victory, fell to third place at 6-2.
But first, senior Christy Burnett fell, spraining her ankle in practice yesterday. Burnett, whose parents came with the team, never played. The all-WAC hitter is among the country's most lethal servers and a vital part of FSU's game, with 38 double-doubles (10-plus kills and digs) in her career. She is also one of the team's primary passers.
"They played with a lot of heart," Shoji said, "especially without their best player. ...ÊI was really impressed with them."
Fresno could have, and probably should have won the first game. The Bulldogs, particularly outside hitter Kristen Fenton, went right after Hawai'i. They blasted their way to an 8-4 advantage to open the match, then shrugged off the Rainbows' initial response.
After the fifth tie, at 16, FSU went on another run, pulling ahead 26-23 before Hawai'i found a familiar solution, and was fortunate enough to have Fenton stuck in the back row.
Kim Willoughby landed four of her match-high 24 kills. In between, Lily Kahumoku launched one she finished with 18 from the back row and another from the front after the 'Bows missed a serve. That put UH at game point (29-27).
"What's hard about Hawai'i is you can force them out of an offensive rhythm and they still have Lily and Kim outside," FSU coach Lindy Vivas said. "The middle can be all screwed up and the right side ineffective, but bottom line they can always set Kim or Lily. You're still killed by All-Americans. There is no bad rotation."
Fenton held off the first game point with her sixth kill of the game but Karin Lundqvist's first kill a moment later ended it. The Rainbow Wahine won for the most part without starting setter Margaret Vakasausau, who was benched from her regular rotation with Jennifer Carey midway through the game. She played some in the second and none in the third. Vakasausau has started for Hawai'i since the fourth match of last season.
"Margaret was just not mentally ready to play tonight," Shoji said. "I didn't feel like she could go out and play. It happens sometimes but usually she can get herself out of it. Tonight she couldn't work her way out of it. She'll need to come into practice and win her position back."
Hawai'i blew to a 21-11 advantage in the second game as FSU's passing disintegrated. Vivas brought in freshman La'akeao-kamahealani Campbell, an all-state player for Iolani a year ago who had made appearances in just six games all season. Campbell earned the right to stay in, but like the player she replaced was no substitute for Burnett. FSU got just four kills from that position all match about what Burnett averages in a game.
In Game 3, UH looked like a team that had played six matches in nine days, which it had. The Bulldogs kept biting at the 'Bows' heels, but never caught up.
"However many games we've played in however many days ... the tiredness finally came over us," said Lauren Duggins, who hit .714 with 11 kills. "It didn't quite take us but our energy level was low. We were running on empty."
QUICK SETS: Hawai'i has won all 29 matches against Fresno State. The Bulldogs have not taken a game off UH since 1998. ... FSU came in with a six-match winning streak and the best start in program history. ... La'akeaokamahealani Campbell, from Kane'ohe, is the first Hawai'i volleyball player to sign a volleyball scholarship agreement with Fresno, which is coached by Punahou graduate Lindy Vivas. ... Nevada beat Fresno in four games earlier this season. ... Kim Willoughby and Lily Kahumoku both had double-doubles last night. Willoughby now has 13 this season and Kahumoku six.