A week devoid of volleyball suspense ended swiftly last night when Hawaii blitzed by Hawaii Pacific 25-14, 25-7, 25-22.
The Rainbow Wahine’s 18th consecutive victory was their most lopsided since, well, Monday, when they smacked Louisiana Tech around in a Western Athletic Conference mismatch that lasted a minute less. The Sea Warriors, with a phenomenal defensive effort in the final set, might have outdone the Techsters.
"I like their team," UH coach Dave Shoji said. "They got great ball control. … Game 2 was not that lopsided, trust me."
Nothing that happened before a Stan Sheriff Center crowd of 3,429 was a surprise.
Hawaii (23-1) is ranked fourth in the NCAA Division I Coaches Poll. The Sea Warriors (17-6), who have won a pair of D-II national titles and one in the NAIA, are third in their conference behind UH-Hilo and Brigham Young-Hawaii. They are ranked ninth in the West Region.
The teams hadn’t played in nine years, and UH is on its annual WAC roll, winning the past 47 sets. Taking a break from D-I was a diversion necessitated by scheduling and a great opportunity for HPU.
Sea Warriors sophomore Sanoe Recca, who played with UH All-American Kanani Danielson at Kamehameha, called it "once in a lifetime. I’m very blessed I had the opportunity.
"I wanted to have no regrets. Of course I do, but I wish we could do it again."
Danielson’s game has only gotten better since high school, she said, but one thing is the same.
"She gets up and puts the ball down," Recca said. "That’s her best thing and she’s very good at it, very consistent."
The Sea Warriors, who lead the D-II nation in digs, were tenacious but far too short. They brought up 23 of their 47 digs (UH had 43) in the final set, but with their tallest starter out with the flu, they put a team on the floor that made even the menehune Wahine look large.
It was a look in the rear-view mirror for Hawaii, which was giving up some 6 inches to final-four opponents last December.
"We’re probably the smallest team in the top 10," Shoji said. "We hope to be faster, that’s how we have to beat teams. And play great defense."
The score was close only very early in the first two sets. The Wahine broke away on Brittany Hewitt’s seven-point serving run in Set 1, despite Pacific West Player of the Week Kelly Balanay burying all four swings she took.
Hawaii went on a 14-1 surge in Set 2. Hewitt’s front-row domination, and two aces, helped Danielson serve seven straight. Then Hewitt and Alex Griffiths served seven more with Alexis Forsythe, Chanteal Satele and Michelle Waber providing the offense.
As soon as Emily Maeda’s ace ended it, Shoji put in his B Team, which cleaned up against LaTech. The reserves — four freshmen, Forsythe and senior libero Elizabeth Ka’aihue — were able to finish it off again despite a closing kick by the Sea Warriors, who won the night’s best rally at 21-18.
Balanay, a 6-foot senior from San Diego, finished with a match-high nine kills and hit .533. The team hit .128 for the match.
"Game 3 we proved we’re not a bad team," Sea Warrior coach Daryl Kapis said. "We’re going to fit in with the best of them, and we did. It was nice to have the UH fans cheering us on our good plays. We wanted to make sure we could show how good our defense was."
» The Green and White alumnae teams split last night’s preliminary game. The White team, led by Heidi Ilustre-Boatright’s 15 kills, won the opening set 30-28. The Green team, with former libero Raeceen Woolford getting 15 kills, took the second 30-28. Boatright had her first child in December, while Woolford was sixth at the Miss America Pageant in January, and won Miss Congeniality.
» After last night’s match, the Wahine received Hawaiian rings for winning their 12th consecutive WAC title last year, and reaching their first final four since 2003.
No. 4 HAWAII DEF. HAWAII PACIFIC 25-14, 25-7, 25-22
Lady Sea Warriors (17-6)
Rainbow Wahine (23-1, 12-0 WAC)
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 — HPU (1): Kea. Hawaii (5): Danielson 2, Maeda 2, Hewitt. Service Errors — HPU (7): Pelayo 2, Recca 2, Flemming, Kea, Yoshimura. Hawaii (5): Danielson 2, Goodman, Griffiths, Satele. Assists –HPU (27): Kea 19, Bradley 4, Recca 2, Curran, Yoshimura. Hawaii (42): Mafua 25, Uiato 12, Ka’aihue 2, Maeda, Danielson. T — 1:23. Officials — Ernie Ho, Wayne Lee. A — 3,429