Fourth-ranked Hawaii erased a few ghosts of volleyball disappointments past and gazed straight into the future last night to remain unbeaten in yet another Honolulu marathon.
With a team your tutu would not recognize — with one awesome exception — the Rainbow Wahine (4-0) fought off Michigan State, 25-18, 31-33, 24-26, 25-20, 15-11, in their opener at the 23rd annual Hawaiian Airlines Wahine Volleyball Classic.
It took 2 hours and 44 minutes and 32 kills from All-American Kanani Danielson, who tied a career high, to finally smack down the Spartans. Almost all of a Stan Sheriff Center crowd of 4,627 (6,024 tickets issued) stayed to the delirious end.
The last time MSU (4-1) was here, it upset unbeaten Hawaii in the 1995 NCAA regional final. This time, it opened the Classic on Thursday with a five-set win over New Mexico, staring down match point in the fourth and scoring six of the night’s final seven points.
Last night, Michigan State stared down seven set points before Hawaii could finally drop the hammer behind Danielson and a dizzying rotation of first-year players. In the background as always were seniors Dani Mafua (65 assists, 13 digs) and Elizabeth Ka’aihue (19 digs), with sophomore Brittany Hewitt starting the night on an offensive tear and ending it as a serving fool.
Just like last Friday against San Diego, UH never trailed in the final set. It scored four of the first five points. Michigan State, which started six upperclassmen, cut its deficit to 8-7. UH coach Dave Shoji called a timeout.
Freshmen Emily Hartong and Michelle Waber collected kills to instigate a 4-1 UH surge. This time the Spartans had no answer, with Danielson drilling the final three kills.
"We were not lining up real well on her," MSU coach Cathy George said of Danielson. "We were really taking her line, too much of her line, and giving up a whole lot of real estate to the left back. Too much area to cover. She was just going off after a while."
Danielson started going off in the second set, after UH middles Hartong and Hewitt blew up the MSU defense in the first. Danielson buried 13 kills in Set 2 and it still wasn’t enough for UH. The Wahine went on a 9-3 tear to tie it at 22 and the teams traded clutch shots for the rest of the 35-minute set.
Michigan State got to set point first and failed to convert, twice. Hawaii pulled ahead 26-25 and served for it three times. MSU senior Megan Schatzle, who finished with 22 kills, erased them all.
The Spartans’ seventh serving error gave UH another shot, but Becca Zlabis, who hammered 21 kills, extended it once more. Zlabis and Danielson traded kills on the next four serves, each erasing yet another set point.
Finally, MSU setter Natalie Emro dinked a ball to put her team up 32-31 and she and Jennifer Rathje stuffed Waber to end it.
The third set was only a little less dramatic. Hawaii tried redshirt freshman Kristiana Tuaniga in the middle and moved Hartong to the left for Waber. Freshman Kaela Goodman swapped time with junior transfer Chanteal Satele. UH scored 12 of the first 17 points, but MSU hung in and tied it at 19.
"The fight," George said, "was definitely there."
A 3-0 run with Hewitt serving put the Wahine ahead 23-21, and they got to set point on Danielson’s 22nd kill. The Spartans scored the final four points, with Zlabis getting two kills and a a stuff and libero Allyson Karaba, who had 26 digs, drilling a jump-serve ace off the tape.
George’s greatest regret was letting the next set get away. MSU stopped Hawaii from converting seven set points over the course of three sets and nearly 2 hours before finally falling in the fourth, to a UH lineup that had one all-freshmen front line and liberally used defensive specialists Emily Maeda, Alex Griffiths and Mita Uiato.
Then the Wahine did their fifth-set thing for the second straight Friday. Danielson attributed it to wisdom as her team hit .429 in the final set.
"Just the choices of people hitting," the junior said. "From Emily to Brittany to Michelle, everybody had their key moment that we needed."
"Of course," Hewitt said, "Kanani dominated the whole night."
The Spartans were ahead 12-7 in Set 4 before Hawaii scored six straight, with Danielson, Mafua and Hewitt in the front row. The Wahine also scored the final three points, on two Danielson kills and a stuff.
"Down 12-7 it’s looking pretty bleak," Shoji said, "but our players were just very determined. At that point all you can do is go out and just grind and that’s what we did. … They are not scared."
Both teams finished with 12 blocks and the Spartans out-dug UH 72-66.
The Wahine play New Mexico tonight in a sequel to last season’s NCAA first-round match. Tenth-ranked Southern California (4-0) and Michigan play in the 5 p.m. match.
No. 10 USC 3, New Mexico 0
Lauren Williams put down 12 kills and Alex Jupiter 10 as the Women of Troy pulled away at the end of each set to sweep the Lobos in 88 minutes.
USC outblocked UNM 11-2, with Williams in on six and Jupiter with three solo stuffs
Lisa Meeter led the Lobos with 12 kills and Ashley Rhoades added 10. Meeter and Allison Buck each had 12 digs.
UH junior reserves Alexis Forsythe (injured thumb) and Corinne Cascioppo (illness) did not play last night.
Second-ranked Texas was swept by fifth-ranked Illinois last night in Austin.
Senior libero Elizabeth Ka’aihue needs four digs tonight to become the 12th Rainbow Wahine with 1,000.
No. 4 Hawaii def. Michigan State 25-18, 31-33, 24-26, 25-20, 15-11
|Rainbow Wahine (4-0)|
Key — s: games; k: kills; e: hitting errors; att: attempts; pct: hitting percentage; d: digs; bs: block solo; ba: block assists; pts: points (kills plus blocks plus aces)
Aces — MSU (1): A. Karaba. Hawaii (4): Hewitt 2, Mafua, Satele. Service Errors — MSU (10): Emro 4, Weiler 2, Peter, Rathje, Schatzle, Ziabis. Hawaii (8): Satele 3, Danielson 2, Maeda 2, Hewitt. Assists — MSU (68): Emro 37, Peter 20, Kelsey 4, Abron 2, Ziabis 2, Dentlinger, Schatzle, Weiler. Hawaii (70): Mafua 65, Ka’aihue 3, Danielson 2. T — 2:44. Officials — Wayne Lee, Denise Hanson. A — 4,627.