Mason carries 'Bows by Irish
By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Ann Miller
Senior Sarah Mason put 16th-ranked Hawai'i on her shoulders last night and lifted the Rainbow Wahine to a 30-28, 30-25, 22-30, 30-23 victory over Notre Dame. The non-conference volleyball match was played before 3,645 at Stan Sheriff Center.
Mason's 22-kill performance could stand alone, particularly when she hit an error-free .581 the first two games. The fact that it came from a player who is a focal point of the 'Bows' hitting, passing and defense on the final night of a brutal stretch where UH played seven matches in 12 days only spoke to her fortitude.
Hawai'i (15-5) lost just once on its extreme volleyball sojourn, which included a 10,000-mile trip. It fell in five Friday at New Mexico State to end its NCAA-record WAC winning streak, built over the past eight years.
The 'Bows were on the brink of sweeping Notre Dame (12-7) a second straight day until they hit the wall in Game 3 last night. The Fighting Irish, who played all six of their freshmen, scored 10 of the final 13 points as UH unraveled.
UH took a deep breath and made one last push. With middles Juliana Sanders and Kari Gregory supplying more offense as outside hitters Jamie Houston and Mason tired, the 'Bows pulled ahead 23-19 in the fourth game.
They weathered one final Irish rush and scored the final six points with Jayme Lee serving.
Liberos Danielle Herndon, Notre Dame's only senior, and Lee both had exceptional matches with 23 digs apiece
Mason salvaged the first game for a Rainbow team that couldn't buy a block and would have happily purchased a consistent passer if it were possible.
The senior was brilliant in an 11-for-19 performance that saw her hit nearly every angle but out. In one compelling three-serve clinic, she crushed a ball down the line against a solo blocker, cut a kill inside the block then floated one deep into empty court.
Mason hit .579 without an error and still, after nine ties, Hawai'i trailed 22-17 because it could not stop the Irish offense.
And then, suddenly, it could. Mason got the 'Bows' only block, stuffing Mallorie Croal to make it 28-26. With Lee serving, Mason's final two kills tied it and a pair of Croal misses ended it. Those were the only three Notre Dame hitting errors of the game.
There would be many more in Game 2, when the Irish hit but .133. Still, Hawai'i could not pull away. It let an early five-point edge disappear, watched a 24-20 advantage slip to one, then finally closed it out on Mason's 17th and 18th kills and Sanders' third stuff.
Sophomore Justine Stremmick had 14 kills without an error and hit .636 for Notre Dame, which has been to the last 14 NCAA Tournaments and shares first in the Big East at 6-0.
Hawai'i doesn't play again until Idaho comes in next Friday (Oct. 27). San Jose State will also be in that weekend, playing a 5 p.m. match Oct. 29. The Vandals are one of three WAC teams, with New Mexico State and Hawai'i, that have just one conference loss. The Spartans just swept Nevada.
Keefe dislocated her left knee on the final point of the 'Bows' victory at Louisiana Tech a week ago. She suffered torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments, and medial and lateral meniscus.
In her first year as a starter, Keefe was averaging 1.38 kills and 0.88 blocks a game. She has had two surgeries on her right knee.
Keefe is the third starter to be lost for the season to injury, following Tara Hittle (leg and ankle) and Nickie Thomas (knee).
That match against the Aggies was only the second time the Rainbows played a ranked team during the streak. The only other time came in the 1998 WAC Tournament championship, against sixth-ranked Brigham Young. That was win No. 12 in the streak.
Reach Ann Miller at email@example.com.