SEATTLE » Hawaii’s 2010 volleyball odyssey came to a screeching halt last night in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
The seventh-ranked Rainbow Wahine stayed with 11th-ranked Washington for the first 10 minutes and the last. The Huskies owned every moment in between in a shockingly easy 25-17, 25-11, 25-23 win before 2,913 at their Hec Edmundson Pavilion.
"We really knew what was coming. We just couldn’t stop it," said UH coach Dave Shoji, who will be inducted into the AVCA Hall of Fame at the final four in two weeks, without his team. "I’m not sure what we could have done.
"They have a system. They run the system. It’s a very good system. But players make the system. Their players are very strong and very athletic, and we had no answer for them."
His team finished its season 29-3, losing two of its last three. It will not be in the regionals for only the second time since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1998.
Washington (23-8) hosts third-ranked Nebraska here next weekend, with fourth-ranked Cal playing North Carolina, and Creighton taking on 12th-ranked Minnesota tonight for the other two slots.
Last night, California swept Utah State, which upset UH for the Western Athletic Conference championship last week.
A year ago, the Wahine put together a brilliant push to reach their first final four since 2003. Today, they head home for finals with seniors Dani Mafua and Elizabeth Ka’aihue finished with their celebrated careers.
They did what they could to prevent that last night. Hawaii’s effort was never in question. But Washington, which finished fifth in the Pac-10 after a hot-and-cold regular season, was simply much better.
The only Hawaii bright spots were fueled by desperation. In the opening moments, Ka’aihue was seemingly everywhere, using every inch of her body to bring back a barrage of Washington missiles. She had 11 of her 21 digs in the first set.
Then, down 22-16 in the third and seemingly out, the Wahine ran off their first three-point run of the short night. They scored on a rare UW hitting error — it had but nine all match — followed by Mafua’s ace and a Brittany Hewitt kill.
Washington coach Jim McLaughlin called time and Hawaii came back with Kanani Danielson’s 10th kill to make it 22-20. The junior All-American had double-doubles in her final five matches.
Kindra Carlson, one of the three Huskies seniors who dominated this match, put down her 18th kill. Becky Perry, the other senior along with setter Jenna Hagglund, gave UW match point at 24-20.
But Chanteal Satele brought her hitting percentage up to .000 with her fifth kill, then dropped in with Hewitt to stuff Carlson. Hagglund and Carlson missed connections, erasing a third match point.
UW called its last timeout and, after two last Ka’aihue digs, Perry pounded the final point.
"At the end I was thinking win, that’s for sure," Ka’aihue said. "Nobody gave up, so that’s a plus. I thought we had it. They just kept banging and we couldn’t finish."
Two years ago, Hawaii fell into an 0-2 hole against the Huskies and came all the way back to win. This year, Washington is 1-8 in the fourth set. Today, none of that matters in Manoa.
"I was real proud of my team for fighting back in Game 3 after playing poorly Game 2 and getting down," Shoji said. "They fought hard, but it wasn’t enough. We ran into a great team tonight. We just couldn’t slow them down at all. They had too many weapons for us."
The Huskies had weapons they didn’t even need to use. Their attackers average 6 feet 2-plus, but it wasn’t their size that stopped Hawaii. It was everything else, starting with passing and especially serving.
"It felt pretty good," Hagglund said. "We got on a roll pretty quick, we were in rhythm all night, our hitters were taking good swings. We served really tough and our passing was on it, nails all night. It made my job a lot easier."
It left the Wahine in sad shock, for the second time in nine nights. They went three months without losing this season, and won 62 consecutive sets. Then it ended, quickly and not so painlessly.
"I’m proud of how we kept up in the first and third game," Hewitt said. "Everybody played hard, we couldn’t ask for more." Then she stopped with a wry grin. "Except winning," she added.
"That," Ka’aihue said, "would have been nice."
WASHINGTON DEF. HAWAII 25-17, 25-11, 25-23
RAINBOW WAHINE (29-3)
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 — Washington (2): Carlson, Dunaway. Hawaii (2): Maeda, Mafua. Service Errors — Washington (8): Carlson 2, Holford 2, Orlandini 2, Hagglund, Perry. Hawaii (8): Griffiths 2, Hewitt 2, Danielson, Kaaihue, Mafua, Satele. Assists — Washington (40): Hagglund 37, Orlandini 3. Hawaii (32): Mafua 28, Kaaihue 3, Uiato. T — 1:28. Officials — Margie Ray, Paula Martin. A — 2,913.