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Seniors lift Wahine to perfection

  • CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARADVERTISER.COM
    Elizabeth Ka'aihue and Kanani Danielson used as much of the floor as possible to return a ball last night.
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Dani Mafua and Elizabeth Ka’aihue were not leaving home without it last night, lifting third-ranked Hawaii to a rare accomplishment in their final home volleyball match.

Before 5,321 on senior night at Stan Sheriff Center, the Rainbow Wahine (27-1, 16-0) finished their blitz of the Western Athletic Conference regular season with a 25-18, 25-17, 25-13 win over Idaho.

For the first time in its history, Hawaii did not drop a set against a conference opponent. It has won its last 59 sets, dating to Sept. 11.

"You never really think you can do something like that," UH coach Dave Shoji said. "That’s a lot of games in a row. If you take them one at a time you can accomplish something like this, and that’s what our team did."

Mafua and Ka’aihue were at the heart of the Wahine’s relentless run, a point that was lost on no one last night as they were buried in lei.

"They both are vocal leaders out there, especially Liz," Shoji said. "They would not allow us to get beat."

UH has now gone undefeated in 13 conference seasons. It will take a NCAA-best 41-match (regular-season) conference winning streak into 2011.

It will do it without Mafua, their setter the past three years, and Ka’aihue, the first libero Shoji ever brought in on scholarship. Both turned out to be brilliant choices.

After snagging another 23 digs last night, Ka’aihue, who was a reserve her second season after suffering an injury, needs just 26 to move past Tita Ahuna and into second place in career digs. The Punahou graduate is fewer than 100 behind 2003 national player of the year Kim Willoughby, who is No. 1 with 1,440. Ka’aihue will also smash the school’s digs-per-set record.

Mafua’s highest praise might come from UH associate coach Kari Ambrozich. She played with Olympic setter Robyn Ah Mow at UH and knows the wondrous history of the position in Manoa, with world-class athletes like Joyce Ka’apuni, Ah Mow and Kanoe Kamana’o — the setter Mafua replaced and was compared with.

"People in the future," Ambrozich said simply, "will be compared to Dani now."

Hawaii goes into next week’s WAC tournament with many mind-numbing numbers that will mean nothing when the NCAA tournament starts in two weeks.

Along with its conference and set streaks, UH has won its past 22 matches overall. It is 218-4 in regular-season matches since joining the WAC, where it has won 15 regular-season titles in 15 tries. That streak is 16 counting the last Big West season, which became more than coincidence with last night’s announcement of a move in the future.

Idaho’s shot at ending any of these streaks ended after the first 10 points last night. The Vandals, who have just one senior (Kelsey Taylor), were up 8-2. The only pass UH had managed to get to the net went over and was promptly slammed back.

The Wahine took a timeout, went on their own 8-2 surge for the first of six ties, then scored 10 of the final 13 points. Kanani Danielson had eight kills in the set and Idaho hit .154 after its opening push.

The second set was all about the seniors. Mafua served five points to put UH up 11-6 and Ka’aihue served five more to make it 18-9. Brittany Hewitt, who leads the country in blocks, had her first three stuffs in that last flurry.

Danielson ended the match after 87 minutes with her 18th kill.

Then the party began, with Henry Kapono Ka’aihue — Elizabeth’s uncle — singing and the Idaho team joining 5,000 others as they sang, clapped and celebrated a remarkable regular season and two remarkable seniors.

"I’m going to miss the excitement and energy that they bring to the court every day," Hewitt said of Mafua and Ka’aihue. "They are such a blast to be around with those contagious laughs. They are crazy. As soon as I got here, they took me in."

The WAC tournament beings Monday in Las Vegas. Hawaii plays Tuesday against the winner of the Boise State-Idaho match.

 

WAC VOLLEYBALL STANDINGS

  W L Pct. GB All
x-Hawaii 16 0 1.000 27-1
New Mexico State 12 4 .750 4 18-12
Utah State 9 7 .562 7 21-8
Boise State 8 8 .500 8 21-11
Idaho 8 8 .500 8 13-14
Fresno State 7 9 .438 9 13-15
Nevada 7 9 .438 9 13-16
San Jose State 3 13 .188 13 8-22
Louisiana Tech 2 14 .125 14 13-20

x-clinches regular-season title and No. 1 seed at WAC Tournament, Nov. 22-24, at Las Vegas
Yesterday
Hawaii def. Idaho 25-18, 25-17, 25-13
Fresno State def. San Jose State 25-19, 25-15, 25-23
Louisiana Tech def. Nevada 25-21, 19-25, 25-17, 20-25, 15-11
Nevada lost to Louisiana Tech 21-25, 25-19, 17-25, 25-20, 11-15
San Jose State lost to Fresno State 19-25, 15-25, 23-25
END REGULAR SEASON

 

NO. 3 HAWAII DEF. IDAHO 25-18, 25-17, 25-13

Vandals (13-14, 8-8 WAC)

  s k e att pct d bs ba pts
Taylor 3 1 0 14 .071 2 0 4 4.0
Walker 3 11 5 32 .188 9 1 0 13.0
Milo 3 6 1 25 .200 3 0 0 6.0
Church 3 6 3 13 .231 2 0 1 6.5
Sele 3 3 2 9 .111 0 0 0 3.0
Feicht 3 0 1 1 -1.00 6 0 3 1.5
Chow 2 0 0 0 .000 1 0 0 0
Walker 1 1 0 2 .500 0 0 0 1.0
Hamilton 3 0 0 0 .000 14 0 0 0
Carter 3 0 0 0 .000 3 0 0 0
TOTALS 3 28 12 96 .167 40 1 8 35

 

RAINBOW WAHINE (27-1, 16-0 WAC)

  s k e att pct d bs ba pts
Hewitt 3 9 1 19 .421 3 0 4 12.0
Danielson 3 18 6 42 .286 12 0 1 19.5
Mafua 3 0 0 1 .000 6 0 0 2.0
Maeda 2 0 0 0 .000 2 0 0 0  
Satele 3 11 4 25 .280 8 0 2 13.0
Hartong 3 4 2 9 .222 2 0 1 4.5  
Waber 3 9 1 17 .471 0 0 2 10.0
Tuaniga 1 0 0 0 .000 0 0 0 0
Ka’aihue 3 0 0 0 .000 12 0 0 2.0
Griffiths 3 0 0 0 .000 6 0 0 0
Uiato 2 0 0 0 .000 1 0 0 0
TOTALS 3 51 14 113 .327 52 0 10 63

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 — Idaho (2): Taylor, Walker. Hawaii (7): Mafua 2, Ka’aihue 2, Hewitt, Danielson, Satele. Service Errors — Idaho (2): Walker, Feicht. Hawaii (4): Mafua 3, Satele. Assists — Idaho (24): Feicht 22, Hamilton, Carter. Hawaii (48): Mafua 42, Ka’aihue 4, Griffiths, Uiato. T — 1:27. Officials — Ray Mink, Denise Hanson. A — 6,798.

 

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