Southern California showed fourth-ranked Hawaii how far it needs to go, and grow, last night, winning the 23rd annual Hawaiian Airlines Wahine Volleyball Classic.
The 10th-ranked Trojans (6-0) seized the momentum last to upset the fourth-ranked Rainbow Wahine 23-25, 25-22, 25-17, 18-25, 15-7. The 2-hour, 22-minute match was a roller coaster from the opening moments.
Most of a season-high crowd of 6,507 (7,866 tickets issued) went home humble after watching USC junior Alex Jupiter soar out of a Hawaii slump to earn most outstanding player honors.
Last December, just before she was named third-team All-American, Jupiter had five kills and hit negative in a miserable NCAA second-round match in which the Wahine ended USC’s season for the third time in four years.
Last night, she had three kills and four errors through 17-all in the second set. She finished with 22 kills and hit .424 the rest of the night, blasting five consecutive kills that put USC ahead 22-19 in the second and gave it the momentum for most of the third.
"I don’t think it was Hawaii as much as it is Alex," USC coach Mick Haley said. "Now she’s at peace with herself and now she can play and I’m really happy for her."
Jupiter’s imposing 6-foot-3 presence was the difference this time around. It was complemented by 17 kills from 6-2 Katie Fuller, who hurt Hawaii early, and 14 more from 6-4 Lauren Williams.
"They are more physical than they were last year," said UH senior Elizabeth Ka’aihue. "I thought Alex Jupiter played a great match. She was hitting over our block, so it’s hard to play defense against her. And that tall middle (Williams) was just getting up really high at a different angle. It’s different playing a really tall, physical team that knows how to play volleyball."
In other words, since the Wahine won’t be able to grow 3 or 4 inches each before December, their growth will have to come in other areas. Early on they have showed promise as they try to blend three new players into the lineup.
Last night, for the third time this young season, UH (5-1) grabbed the momentum back with a gritty fourth set. But this time the promise went unfulfilled despite a career match from sophomore Brittany Hewitt, who finished with 18 kills, hit .708 and added 10 blocks.
"We have all along thought she was capable of doing what she did tonight," UH coach Dave Shoji said. "Her and Dani (Mafua) were just connecting and obviously she was a force. But they kind of gave us some opportunities in the middle, that’s why she was open and she did a great job. … The numbers are mind-boggling."
Hawaii has gone the full five sets in half its matches, rallying from the brink to win the fourth and fifth twice before. This time, the Trojans got Jupiter going again in the front row early in the fifth and scored six of the first seven points.
"It was just too easy for them to get it done," said UH All-American Kanani Danielson, who went for 21 kills and 15 digs. "Hats off to everybody trying to hang in there since we’ve been doing five sets for a while, but we’ve just got to be in there mentally and lessen those errors."
The early meltdown forced Shoji to burn both timeouts.
"I don’t know if we were just fatigued physically, mentally or maybe both," Shoji said. "When we got to the fifth game, it just didn’t look like we had anything there. We started what we thought was our best rotation and we couldn’t get out of it."
The Wahine never got closer than three again, with an offense missing two critical ingredients — the right side and another left to back up Danielson. Those two positions hit a combined negative .130 last night.
"If we play the same match," Shoji said, "we probably can’t beat anybody in the top 10."
The teams traded early jitters, poor passing streaks and strings of points for the first half of the first set. With USC ahead 15-11, Hawaii scored six straight with Ka’aihue serving and never trailed again.
The second set was tied 14 times before Jupiter finally found her rhythm, and when Hawaii hit just .107 in the third set, the crowd went silent. The Wahine brought them back to life in the fourth, scoring nine of the first 12 points with an all-freshmen front row.
Then reality, and the Trojans’ huge size advantage, hit Hawaii hard.
"We’re kind of the opposite," Shoji said. "We’ve got to work hard. We can’t go over anybody, but they can. That was difficult because we just had no defense for some of their offense."
NO. 10 SOUTHERN CALIFORINA DEF. NO. 10 HAWAII 23-25, 25-22, 25-17, 18-25, 15-7
|Women of Troy (6-0)|
|Rainbow Wahine (5-1)|
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 — USC (3): Jupiter 2, Bateman. Hawaii (3): Ka’aihue 2, Danielson. Service Errors — USC (12): Fuller 3, Urango 3, Burnham 2, Fonoimoana 2, Hagglund, Jupiter. Hawaii (12): Hewitt 4, Danielson 2, Ka’aihue 2, Mafua 2, Satele, Waber Assists — USC (59): Bateman 53, Williams 5, Olgard. Hawaii (50): Mafua 40, Uiato 7, Ka’aihue 2, Maeda. T — 2:22. Officials — Dickson Chun, Wayne Lee. A — 6,507.