Everything may be bigger in Texas but it was Hawaii that came up bigger tonight at the Stan Sheriff Center.
In a huge season-opening match for both the 11th-ranked Rainbow Wahine and the top-ranked Longhorns, Hawaii served notice to the rest of the country when knocking off the defending NCAA champions, 25-19, 19-25, 27-25, 25-16.
Senior All-American hitter Emily Hartong put down 18 kills and junior middle Kalei Adolpho added 11 kills and was in on seven of the team’s 10 blocks in the second match of the Chevron Rainbow Wahine Invitational.
Hartong also became the 17th Wahine to reach the 1,000-kill plateau in program history, doing so when tying Set 4 at 2-2. She now has 1,0005.
“It’s obviously early but it is an amazing win for our program,” said Wahine coach Dave Shoji, now three victories away from becoming the all-.time winningest coach in the sport “We kind of went away from the game plan (in Set 2) but regrouped to win Set 3, which was key.
“We probably shocked a lot of people tonight.”
Freshman hitter Nikki Taylor was impressive in her Hawaii debut, with 10 kills, hitting .500 with one error, and was in on six blocks.
A turnstile crowd of 8,639 — the largest since 7,670 against USC in the NCAA regional semifinal — saw Texas lose its season-opener on the road since 2007 when playing at Penn State. Senior All-American hitter Bailey Webster led the Longhorns with 19 kills and junior All-American hitter Haley Eckerman added 11.
Hawaii out-blocked Texas 10-8 and won the dig war 47-45. Wahine senior libero Ali Longo had a match-high 17 digs. Longhorn senior libero Sarah Palmer, a graduate of Hawaii Baptist, had 11.
In the opening match, San Diego turned back UTEP, 25-14, 22-25, 25-23, 25-20.
Texas plays UTEP at 11 a.m. Saturday followed by a 6 p.m. match with San Diego. Hawaii concludes the rare tripleheader against UTEP, a scheduled 8:30 p.m start.
The tournament concludes with Sunday’s 5 p.m. match between Hawaii and San Diego.