POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Oct 28, 2012
LAST UPDATED: 3:32 a.m. HST, Oct 28, 2012
IRVINE, Calif. » The Emily Hartong Hitting Machine keeps pounding and pounding and pounding.
But despite Hartong's 29 kills, Hawaii came within one set of losing its first conference match since 2008.
Nevertheless, the ninth-ranked Rainbow Wahine won the final two sets for a 25-21, 22-25, 19-25, 25-22, 15-10 victory over UC Irvine on Saturday night in Big West Conference play at Crawford Court.
Hawaii (19-2, 12-0) extended its conference winning streak, the best in the nation, to 67 matches while earning its 12th consecutive victory of the season.
Key: Emily Hartong had 29 kills to lead the Wahine.
Next: UH vs. UC Santa Barbara, 7 p.m. Thursday at the Stan Sheriff Center.
Hartong added two service aces, two block assists and 16 digs, one more than the career high she established Friday night against Long Beach State.
Yet the Wahine had to rally from deficits in the first and fourth sets to have a chance against the Anteaters (10-15, 5-6) — who not only had never beaten UH in 28 meetings since 1985, but also had extended the 'Bows to five sets only once previously, in 1992.
"They played much more aggressively, and their outside hitters were much better," Hawaii coach Dave Shoji said.
UH responded with contributions from unexpected sources. Former Punahou standout Tai Manu-Olevao made her first start and finished with eight kills. Stephanie Hagins added two kills and a block assist at critical junctures.
"We got a big lift from those two," said Shoji, who especially praised Manu-Olevao. "I thought she played wonderfully for being a true freshman and never having played the left side before."
Monica Stauber and Kaela Goodman played pivotal roles in the first set. Both entered the match after Hawaii turned a 12-8 deficit in that set into a 15-15 tie.
Using a slow, floating serve with minimal spin, Stauber served five successive points to give the 'Bows a 20-15 lead, and assisted on one of Ashley Kastl's two kills during the 5-0 spree. Goodman and Kalei Adolpho twice combined on block assists for two more points.
But UH squandered a 10-6 advantage in the third set, as Irvine used an 8-3 surge to move ahead 14-13. Then with the score tied at 16, Marisa Bubica punched three kills in a 4-0 run that gave the Anteaters a 20-16 lead.
The Wahine narrowed the deficit to 20-18, but a hitting error combined with Marissa Alvarez's two service aces extended the margin to 23-18.
That loss stimulated the 'Bows.
"We knew that was our last chance," Hartong said.
Goodman helped UH take control of the fourth set with three kills during a 9-2 blitz that gave Hawaii a 16-11 lead. Hartong and Jane Vorster each added a kill and a block assist.
Irvine drew within 23-22, but Hartong stifled the Anteaters' rally by punching a cross-court kill from the left antenna and serving an ace to tie the match.
Hartong amassed seven kills in the fourth set before dominating the fifth with six kills, most of them powerful shots from the back row. Hartong contributed five of those kills and another ace as UH built a 10-6 advantage.
Again, Irvine narrowed the deficit to one point, 10-9. But a 4-0 spurt dispatched the Anteaters.
Goodman began that spurt with a cross-court kill from the right side to earn a sideout. Emily Maeda followed with an ace; then kills from Hartong and Hagins closed out the victory.
Vorster finished with 11 kills, while Goodman contributed nine kills and four block assists. Irvine's Aly Squires had 14 kills and 18 digs, Ella Rosenfeld made seven block assists and Kristin Winkler amassed 28 digs.