Overcoming the odds and a relentless middle attack, Hawaii surged to a 22-25, 25-22, 15-25, 25-20, 15-10 volleyball victory over top-ranked Southern California last night.
Before 3,116 fans in the Stan Sheriff Center, the Warriors kept alive their goal of hosting an opening-round match in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation playoffs.
By improving to 15-11 overall and 13-8 in the MPSF, the Warriors moved into a fourth place, a half-match ahead of UC Irvine.
The Warriors end their regular season in tonight’s rematch.
“This feels so good,” UH outside hitter Joshua Walker said. “We’re not really concerned about our opponent right now. We’re concerned about playing at a high level. We want to play playoff volleyball from here on out. If we do that, we can beat anybody.”
The Warriors entered last night’s match against a team that had won 17 of 18 MPSF matches.
The Trojans, who fell to 18-2 and 17-2, had not lost since Feb. 11.
And it appeared the Trojans were in control early, dominating the first and third sets with an aggressive quick attack.
Through the first four sets, middle hitters Austin Zahn and Steven Shandrick combined for 20 kills (against one error) in 26 swings.
But the Warriors rebounded, thanks to tough serving — they committed only three service errors in the final two sets — and stay-alive defense.
Outside hitter Steven Hunt, who was burned for three aces in the first two sets, played well in the final three, making diving and leaping digs to preserve rallies. He also contributed 12 kills.
And UH’s pin hitters — opposite Jonas Umlauft and left-side attacker Walker — provided the offensive punch. Umlauft, the nation’s leader in kills, added to that total with 26 in an arm-numbing 39 swings. Walker had 19 kills, and played solid defense.
The Warriors forced a fifth set after containing the Trojans’ middle attack in the fourth set.
An errant USC serve tied it at 3, and the Warriors took a 4-3 lead when Shandrick hit wide. It was Shandrick’s first error of the match, coming on his 17th swing.
The score was tied at 10 before the Warriors made their closing push. Umlauft, hitting out of the back right, slammed a shot that ricocheted off the USC block and struck the antenna to make it 11-10.
Then UH setter Nejc Zemljak stepped behind the service line.
“I was just thinking about making good serves,” Zemljak said.
He made them all.
Walker extended the lead to 12-10 when he hit a roll shot over a triple block. After a USC timeout, Zemljak blasted a kill that hit off USC’s Tony Ciarelli.
USC then called another timeout, but did not come up with an answer to Zemljak’s serves.
Umlauft blasted a kill off a double block, setting up aloha ball. Walker closed the match with a solo block of Murphy Troy.
“I tried to get my vision right,” Walker said. “I tried to get in front of him, and make a solid move inside. I did that.”
USC setter Riley McKibbin said: “It was the whole match. We just didn’t come out and play our best. We have to come back and play better. We didn’t pass our best. Anything can happen in Game 5. It’s tough to play here. A couple of balls here and there and it could have gone either way.”
No. 8 Hawaii def. No. 1 USC 22-25, 25-22, 15-25, 25-20, 15-10
Trojans (18-2, 17-2)
Warriors (15-11, 13-8)
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). Service Aces — USC 6 (Troy 3, Ciarelli 2, R.McKibbin). Hawaii 4 (Zemljak 2, Welch, Walker). Service errors — USC 18 (Ciarelli 5, Troy 4, Shandrick 3, R.McKibbin 2, Zahn 2, Bourne 2). Hawaii 12 (Walker 5, Dyer 3, Welch 2, Umlauft, Zemljak). Assists — USC 59 (R.McKibbin 56, Ciarelli 2, Bourne). Hawaii 55 (Zemljak 44, Biscaro 6, Hunt 2, Castello 2, Dyer). T — 2:30. Officials — Wayne Lee, Dan Hironaka. A — 3,116.
|x-UC Santa Barbara||11||9||.550||61⁄2||14-12|
|x-Long Beach State||10||10||.500||71⁄2||12-13|
|UC San Diego||5||15||.250||121⁄2||9-18|
a-clinched top seed
y-clinched MPSF quarterfinal home court
x-clinched MPSF quarterfinal berth
z-ineligible for postseason
Hawaii def. USC, 22-25, 25-22, 15-25, 25-20, 15-10
BYU def. Pepperdine, 18-25, 25-21, 25-19, 25-18
UCLA def. Pacific, 25-19, 25-19, 25-22
UC Santa Barbara def. Stanford, 25-22, 23-25, 25-23, 25-16
USC at Hawaii, 7 p.m. at Stan Sheriff Center
BYU at Pepperdine
UC Irvine at CSU Northridge
UC San Diego at Long Beach State
Stanford at UCLA