There are very few secrets in volleyball. The worst-kept one?
Keep the serve in.
No. 20 Hawaii had trouble with that, with 13 service errors, during its match with Denver on Sunday. But when it counted, the Rainbow Wahine used big serves and an even bigger block to improve to 6-0 for the first time since 2004.
Senior setter Norene Iosia had key serving runs in Sets 3 and 4, and Hawaii overcame power outages — official and otherwise — when defeating Denver 25-16, 21-25, 25-15, 25-18 for the championship of the Heineken Invitational. The Wahine finished with 11 blocks, five each by tournament MVP Sky Williams and freshman hitter Riley Wagoner, in a match that lasted 2 hours and 15 minutes before 4,210 at the Stan Sheriff Center.
The contest included a 17-minute power outage with Hawaii up 19-14 in Set 4, a delay that had Denver (5-1) scrambling to make its 8 p.m. flight out of Honolulu International Airport. A Hawaiian Electric Co. spokeswoman said there were no reported outages in the University area at that time on Sunday.
“It was a little scary,” Williams, a junior middle, said of the power outage. “I wasn’t sure if there was an emergency.
“But right now it feels amazing to be 6-0. I’m not surprised, we’ve worked hard for this. We have a quick turnaround and what will help us keep the energy is reminding ourselves what the wins mean for us, the program, the fans and the state.”
Hawaii next hosts the Outrigger Resorts Challenge, Thursday through Saturday. The Wahine open with West Virginia (4-2); the first match has UCLA (3-2) against Utah Valley (2-5).
The last time Hawaii was 6-0 was 15 years ago when the team finished 30-1, losing in the third round of the NCAA tournament. Iosia was 6 and “I had just started playing volleyball,” she said. “What is great about this team is we’re very versatile and everyone is selfless.
“We have people who can come in off the bench and do the job. That gives us a lot of confidence.”
One of the substitutions was at middle when Hawaii swapped freshman blockers, Tiffany Westerberg for Amber Igiede, in Set 3. Westerberg finished with a career-high nine kills, three straight early in Set 4, and two coming off overpasses of Iosia’s serves.
That helped spark an 8-0 run by the Wahine that had them taking the lead for good at 10-5.
Joining Williams on the all-tournament team were junior hitter Jolie Rasmussen and senior setter Bailey Choy. It was the third double-double for both Rasmussen (16 kills, 12 digs) and Choy (25 assists, 14 digs).
Also named were Denver’s junior hitter Lydia Bartalo and junior middle Tina Boe. Bartalo led the Pioneers Sunday with 11 kills.
On Saturday, Sacramento State defeated Army for third place. Named to the all-tournament team were the Hornets’ junior hitter Macey Hayden and the Black Knight’s junior libero Ana Oglivie (‘Iolani).
“I thought tonight was a good, high-level match,” Denver coach Tom Hogan said. “We need to be more consistent in order to hang with a top team, and Hawaii is a top-25 team.
“I thought both teams played well, just at different times. Robyn (Hawaii coach Ah Mow) got them to play better throughout the week.”
Denver next heads to Omaha, where it will play No. 2 Nebraska as part of a Friday-Saturday tournament.
“That’s why we came out to Hawaii,” Hogan said. “To get used to playing in front of a big crowd.”
It took just 24 minutes for Hawaii to hand Denver just its second set loss this season, snapping a 13-set winning streak. The Wahine were very efficient, hitting .550, with more blocks (three) than hitting errors (two), both errors by freshman Hanna Hellvig.
The Pioneers more than rebounded when starting a new streak, taking advantage of eight Wahine hitting errors to pull away in Set 2. Denver broke the 16th and last tie, using three Hawaii errors (two hitting and one service) to pull away at 23-19.
Williams’ two kills had the Wahine threatening at 23-21. The Pioneers evened the match on a UH net violation and a hitting error by Hellvig.
Hawaii swapped out its freshman middles and flipped the momentum in Set 3. Had it not been for the Wahine’s five service errors and four hitting errors, it would have been more of a blowout.
Both Choy and Rasmussen reached their double-doubles in Set 3. Denver hit negative .065, four of its seven hitting errors courtesy of Hawaii blocks.
Just when it looked as if the crowd could beat the 7 p.m. Pali Highway closure, the power went out with Hawaii up 19-14 in Set 4. The outage was sandwiched by two Denver blocks, the second bringing the Pioneers to 19-15. They got no closer.
Junior hitter Brooke Van Sickle added 10 kills for Hawaii and Iosia just missed a double-double with 19 assists to go with nine digs.