No. 18 Hawaii volleyball team sweeps UCLA for Outrigger tournament title
No. 18 Hawaii gave its third-year coach exactly what she asked for, and in impressive fashion, claiming its 18th Outrigger Hotels & Resorts Invitational title.
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Hawaii’s nine newcomers had no history with UCLA, a rivalry that dated back to 1974, the first season of Rainbow Wahine collegiate volleyball.
But what the nine did know is that Saturday was the night before coach Robyn Ah Mow’s birthday and she wanted only one present: to beat the Bruins.
No. 18 Hawaii gave its third-year coach exactly what she asked for, and in impressive fashion, claiming its 18th Outrigger Hotels & Resorts Invitational title. The Rainbow Wahine swept the Bruins 25-15, 25-22, 25-23 in front of a season-high crowd of 7,595 at the Stan Sheriff Center
Hawaii (9-0) won its third consecutive tournament for the first time since 2013, needing just 93 minutes to top UCLA (5-3) for the first time since 2015, which was also a sweep. Freshman hitter Hanna Hellvig was named the Most Valuable Player, joining Wahine associate coach Angelica Ljungqvist (1996) as the second Swede to earn the top award in the 25 years of the event.
“It’s amazing, I never thought this would happen,” said Hellvig, who finished with her second straight double-double (11 kills, 12 digs). “I knew we had to fight for it, especially at the end of the (third set).
“I looked around and there were so many people. It helped the team.”
It was Hellvig’s serving run at the end of Set 3 that helped Hawaii turn a 22-20 deficit into a 24-22 lead, a run that included her second ace and the Wahine’s eighth block. UCLA fended off one match point, on a kill by junior hitter Jenny Mosser, but not a second, with it ending anticlimactically when Bruins junior hitter Mac May served long.
May and senior hitter Savvy Simo were named to the all-tournament team along with Hawaii freshman middle Amber Igiede and junior hitter Brooke Van Sickle. Also named were West Virginia’s junior libero Alexa Hasting and Utah Valley sophomore hitter Kazna Tarawhiti.
In Saturday’s de facto third-place match, West Virginia swept Utah Valley 25-15, 27-25, 25-17.
The postmatch celebration included video birthday messages to Ah Mow and the crowd singing “Happy Birthday.”
“This was awesome,” Ah Mow said. “I haven’t beat UCLA or Mike (former Hawaii associate coach Sealy). I asked the team to give me a birthday present and they did.
“Down (22-20) they had to dig deep. It feels real good to beat UCLA because it’s just UCLA.”
The series is now tied 38-38. It was the first win over the Bruins for the Wahine seniors.
“It feels so good,” senior setter Norene Iosia said. “They’re a great team and this is something very special we could give Coach Rob (Ah Mow).
“It was definitely a team win.”
It was the perfect way to set up Hawaii’s first road trip of the season. The Wahine leave Wednesday for the Baylor Classic, where they will see No. 21 Missouri (7-0) on Saturday and No. 5 Baylor the following day.
Hawaii then stays on the road for two Big West matches at Long Beach State and Cal State Northridge.
“We told the team before the match that we weren’t going to be in this place (the Stan Sheriff Center) for a long time and to enjoy this moment,” Ljungqvist said. “UCLA’s always a hard team to beat and we were super excited to close it out, coming back the way we did at 20-22, staying sharp and staying together.
“It was great.”
“It feels unreal,” said Igiede, finishing with five kills and seven blocks, two of them solo. “We wanted this so bad, especially for Coach Rob. You could tell the crowd wanted it so bad.”
Simo had 10 kills to lead the Bruins, who hit .160. May was held to seven kills; she came in averaging five per set. Sophomore libero Kelli Barry had a match-high 13 digs.
UCLA opened the season at Nebraska and was swept by Baylor and the host Cornhuskers, now ranked No. 2.
“We played at Nebraska, and we played here this year,” Bruins assistant coach Megan Pendergast said. “It’s two of the most unbelievable places to play college volleyball.
“I thought Hawaii served the ball really well tonight. I thought they were really prepared for what we were going to do. They put a ton of pressure on us from the service line. I think we recovered really nicely and showed some fight. We got better as we went, but I thought the Rainbow Wahine did a really nice job tonight from the service line, for sure.”
West Virginia 3, Utah Valley 0
Sophomore hitter Kristin Lux put down 13 kills and sophomore middle Kristina Jordan added 12 for the Mountaineers (5-4). Junior libero Alexa Hasting had 15 of the team’s 49 digs.
For the Wolverines (2-8), sophomore hitter Kazna Tarawhiti had 10 kills and junior libero Seren Merrill 18 of the team’s 63 digs.