'Bows sweep San Jose State
|Photo gallery: UH vs San Jose State Volleyball|
By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Ann Miller
A hot start sputtered into a tepid end for ninth-ranked Hawai'i last night. The Rainbow Wahine lost their touch and their timing, but still hung on to hang a 25-12, 25-22, 26-24 loss on San Jose State in Western Athletic Conference volleyball.
Hitting percentages rarely lie, and last night's told the riches-to-rags UH story. The 'Bows (16-3, 9-1 WAC) had but three hitting errors in a spectacular first set. They had twice as many by the middle of the second set, and three times as many at the end of the third, when the Spartans (9-13, 4-6) came within two points of turning an 87-minute match into something much more complicated for Hawai'i.
Even more telling was the tale of the kill tape: The Rainbow Wahine blasted 54 kills to San Jose's 24.
Why did 4,388 at Stan Sheriff Center see such a close match? The Spartans' tenacity for one, after they were blitzed in the opening set and playing without an injured Niki Clement, a senior who is second to senior transfer Kelly Crow in kills.
The Rainbows' complacency for another, a factor the players and coaches mentioned often.
"We had some ball-control issues ...," UH coach Dave Shoji said by way of explaining the closeness of the final two sets, along with nine missed serves and 20 hitting errors. He knew he had seen it all before this WAC season.
"We played a flawless first game. We were doing all the little things right," Shoji said. "And then we got a little complacent and were sloppy with the ball the rest of the match, so it was fairly close in Games 2 and 3. ... We just eked it out."
Hawai'i hardly put a scare into the Spartans, who had shots at winning the last two sets, even with the 'Bows stifling Crow in negative hitting (3 kills, 5 errors) by serving her constantly.
UH did not look as if it should be ranked ninth, or now leading the conference by a half-match over New Mexico State. At least not after the first set.
"We were just jelling," setter Dani Mafua said about the first set. "It's like how we go into the practice gym every day. That's really how we play. Everything was just clicking."
The Rainbow Wahine were spectacular from 6-7 on in that set. Mafua got great passes and isolated every hitter as UH hit .467 for the set. Nickie Thomas (.750) and Jamie Houston (.600) were especially efficient and Houston (7 kills, 7 digs) closed on her third double-double early.
"I thought Dani really distributed the ball well in Game 1," Shoji said. "She got everybody involved, especially the middle. When the middle is involved then it really opens up the left and right. That's what happened in Game 1. She had everything going and all our hitters were going 1-on-1."
Hawai'i scored eight straight to pull ahead 14-7 and SJSU never recovered, until the 'Bows brought them back into the match in the second set. The Spartans got within 23-21 in that one, but missed a serve and went down to Kanani Herring's fifth kill of the set.
"Everyone got a little complacent," Houston said. "We backed off a little bit and our passing was a little off. It was harder for the setters and the hitters. I think we just got a little lazy as the game went on."
Moanalua High School graduate Brianna Amian led the Spartans with four kills at that point, but was hitting zero. She buried her first three swings in the final very sloppy set, and helped the Spartans chase down Hawai'i at 18, 22, 23 and 24-all. The 'Bows, trying to integrate three reserves into the lineup, finally closed it out when SJSU made its third serving error of the set — it only had four — and Stephanie Brandt's dig set up Herring's 12th kill.
Houston finished with a match-high 18 kills, but with eight errors. Amian's eight kills were twice as many as any other Spartan, and her four blocks were twice as many as any of the 'Bows. Kamehameha graduate Kristal Tsukano, SJSU's libero, led her team with 11 digs.
"We probably played a good game and a half in that match once we settled down," SJSU coach Oscar Crespo said. "I was pleased where we're at right now. Obviously we would have liked to take a set off them but I'm seeing some really nice things out of the kids out on the court. With Bree (Amian) and Kylie (Miraldi), thinking of our future, and Emily (Burke). Kristal is doing a nice job."
Fresno State (5-13, 2-7 WAC) play at Hawai'i tomorrow, at 5 p.m. The Bulldogs upset Utah State in Logan at the end of September, but have lost their past six. Nevada (Oct. 31) and Utah State (Nov. 1) play here next week.
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