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Hawaii women’s volleyball team rallies to beat Fullerton in 5 sets

  • ANDREW LEE / SPECIAL TO THE STAR-ADVERTISER
                                Hawaii’s reserves celebrate after the Rainbow Wahine scored a point during the third set of their match against Cal State Fullerton tonight at the Stan Sheriff Center.

    ANDREW LEE / SPECIAL TO THE STAR-ADVERTISER

    Hawaii’s reserves celebrate after the Rainbow Wahine scored a point during the third set of their match against Cal State Fullerton tonight at the Stan Sheriff Center.

The No. 11 Hawaii women’s volleyball team narrowly avoided losing to a struggling Big West team at home for a second straight night, as they rallied from a two-set hole tonight to reverse sweep Cal State Fullerton.

After UC Irvine earned its program’s first win over UH on Friday in reverse sweeping the Rainbow Wahine, this time it was last-place Fullerton pushing UH. The Rainbow Wahine rallied just in time for a 22-25, 20-25, 25-23, 25-15, 15-12 win in front of a Saturday night crowd of 5,024.

UH (13-2, 3-1 Big West) came close to its first consecutive conference losses in the Stan Sheriff Center. The last time they dropped two straight conference matches at home was to Long Beach State in Klum Gym on consecutive nights in October 1993.

The Titans (8-7, 0-4) came in having dropped 39 sets in a row to UH going back to 2012, but ended that right off the bat.

Versatile UH hitter Brooke Van Sickle, who appeared to suffer an injury midway through Friday’s match, was held out, joining the injured Jolie Rasmussen on the bench. The Wahine appeared to be short on viable offensive options early in the match, as freshmen Hanna Hellvig (season-high 62 attacks) and Riley Wagoner (season-high 41) piled up the swings.

But Hawaii got a mid-match spark from freshman Braelyn Akana (six kills, .417 hitting) and a switch out of the 6-2 offense to have Norene Iosia hit with fellow setter Bailey Choy on the floor for the first time this season. Iosia finished with nine kills, 26 assists and 17 digs. Hellvig had 16 kills and a season-high-tying 20 digs. Choy had 28 assists and 16 digs.

Freshman middle Amber Igiede had her first double-double — 10 kills and 10 blocks — as UH won the battle at the net 14-9.

Fullerton, led by hitter Julia Crawford (20 kills), seized control early in Set 1 and rode it all the way, eventually prevailing after UH survived three set points.

UH opened Set 2 better, leading 8-6, but gave up an 8-0 run in the middle of the frame and was playing catch-up again.

Coach Robyn Ah Mow inserted Akana to start Set 3 looking for a spark. Fullerton jumped ahead anyway and still led, 11-5, when Ah Mow lifted Wagoner and had Iosia begin to hit. Igiede’s power shot from the middle brought UH within 12-10. Fullerton remained ahead, but the Wahine drew within 19-18. Iosia’s consecutive aces gave the Wahine a 22-21 lead. Igiede hit a bullet for set point, 24-22, and UH put it away two points later.

UH started 4-0 in Set 4, eliciting a quick Fullerton timeout. The Titans called their second of the set trailing 12-7. Rika Okino’s ace made it 20-12 and Igiede followed with a solo block. Akana’s putdown kill set up set point and she followed with another to send it to the deciding frame.

The Wahine kept it rolling in Set 5. McKenna Ross put one down off the block to go up 5-2 and force a Fullerton timeout. Iosia put down her ninth kill for a 12-7 lead. Akana put one off the block to go up six, but Fullerton then scored four straight to get within 13-11. Igiede’s tip shot set up match point, which Fullerton fought off once before committing an attack error.

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