Rainbow Wahine win 12th straight WAC title
Hawai'i clinched its 12th consecutive regular-season volleyball title and the top seed in next week's Western Athletic Conference Tournament with a performance that looked better on paper — a 30-21, 26-30, 30-20, 30-25 victory over Idaho — than it looked in person last night at Memorial Gym in Moscow.
Coming off a four-game win at Boise State that UH coach Dave Shoji characterized as their "worst match of the year," the 13th-ranked Rainbow Wahine (23-5, 15-1 WAC) again had problems, which is a huge concern going into the postseason.
"We couldn't keep the ball in play," Shoji said. "Our outside hitters had real trouble keeping it in play. We got pretty good production out of our middles, but ultimately we have to go the outside. Luckily, they both kind of rallied."
So did Hawai'i, to finish off the third and fourth games after losing the final four points of Game 2. The 'Bows outscored Idaho 22-9 to end Game 3 and 9-3 in Game 4.
The loss dropped the Vandals (10-17) into a three-way tie for third at 9-6, with San Jose State and Nevada. All three teams play tonight on the final day of the regular season. The Spartans are at 21st-ranked New Mexico State, which has clinched second.
Hawai'i got 19 kills from Jamie Houston, 17 from Sarah Mason and 15 from Kari Gregory last night. But Gregory — at .500 — was the only UH hitter above .250. Mason, who hit nearly .500 the previous two matches, hit .070 with 13 errors.
The Rainbows hit just .193 for the match. The Vandals, who hit for a negative percentage in the first and third games, finished at .055. They had five hitters in negative numbers as the Vandals tried in vain to avoid the Rainbow block. Juliana Sanders had eight stuffs and freshman Amber Kaufman five. The 'Bows also collected 76 digs. Five players had at least 11, with Elise Duggins getting a career-high 15.
Shoji believes his team will have "to grind" to win its ninth straight WAC Championship and come back home for the NCAA's first and second rounds. Hawai'i has to win the subregional to be in the NCAA Regional it is hosting Dec. 8 and 9.
"We weren't playing well and we still had enough in us to win. That part is encouraging," Shoji said. "Getting the top seed wasn't important. I think the impact was just getting a win on the road in the eyes of the NCAA. A loss hurts us. I think we have to win out to even think about hosting first and second round."
Hawai'i opens the WAC Tournament Wednesday night in Reno, Nev., against the winner of that morning's match between Louisiana Tech and Fresno State. Semifinals will be played Thanksgiving night and the championship on Friday.
Hawai'i senior Kanoe Kamana'o had three aces and moved into a tie for ninth on the UH career list with Joyce Ka'apuni, at 90. Kamana'o is also in the Top 10 in assists, digs and blocks. With 52 assists last night, she moved into 13th on the NCAA career list.
Tickets can be purchased for the WAC Tournament by calling 800-225-2277, or online at tickets.com. The Lawlor Ticket Office in Reno is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.