The No. 18-ranked and No. 12-seeded Hawaii women’s volleyball team powered past Northern Colorado 26-24, 24-26, 25-8, 25-15 tonight at the Stan Sheriff Center for its first win in the NCAA tournament in three years.
Hawaii’s first NCAA match at home since 2013 got off to a shaky start, as it was challenged early and often by the Big Sky tournament champion Bears and the first two sets went to extra points. But the Rainbow Wahine (25-3) rolled in the final two, buoyed by the return of hitter Jolie Rasmussen from injury, to win their 12th straight match in front of a “white-out” crowd of 7,126.
It set up a date with San Diego (25-5) at 7 p.m. Saturday for a spot in the NCAA regionals; the Toreros defeated Washington State in four sets in the first match at the Sheriff today.
Rasmussen came out for full warmups for the first time since injuring a foot against West Virginia on Sept. 12. She made her first appearance to start Set 3, with the match tied 1-1. She supplied only four kills on 13 swings, but her teammates rallied around her. UH was led by McKenna Ross’ 14 kills on 36 swings (.250). Setter/hitter Norene Iosia supplied 25 assists and 13 digs. Middle Sky Williams put down kills on her first nine swings and finished 9-for-11, with six blocks. Hitter Brooke Van Sickle had nine kills and 15 digs and libero Rika Okino had 16 digs.
UH outblocked the Bears 13-3.
UH opened the match with an ace by Iosia, but the Wahine struggled with their swings from there in playing from behind for most of the first set. Okino’s ace brought UH within 22-21. On an extended point, a quick set to Amber Igiede tied it at 22. The momentum built from there as UNC turned back one set point, but UH made good on its second with a block by Hanna Hellvig and Igiede.
UNC started off hot in Set 2, taking a 5-2 lead. UH caught the Bears at 8 and went up on a Ross kill. An ace and a block by the Bears put the visitors ahead until consecutive kills by Van Sickle — the second off an assist from Igiede — put the Wahine up 14-13. Igiede put down an overpass for a 23-22 lead and Iosia followed with her second ace of the match. But UH could not maintain it and UNC put the frame away on their second set point.
Buoyed by the return of Rasmussen, it was UH that got off to a strong start in Set 3. She connected for kills on her first two swings. Williams and Iosia collaborated for a block to make it 7-3. It grew to 10-3 on an ace by Bailey Choy and the run extended to 10-0 on another ace by Choy. UH continued its domination in winning a set by its most lopsided score of the 2019 season.
After trading some points to begin Set 4, UH eked ahead 8-4. Iosia’s block solo followed by her ace made it 16-7. The Bears shook off one match point before Igiede put down the second.
Taylor Muff led the Bears (26-8) with 19 kills on 56 swings, hitting .232.