How sweet it is. How sweep it is.
No. 18 Hawaii rode a balanced attack, led by freshman hitter Hanna Hellvig’s 12 kills, into next weekend’s NCAA women’s volleyball Sweet 16 in Madison, Wis., the Rainbow Wahine advancing with a 25-23, 25-21, 25-21 victory Saturday night at the Stan Sheriff Center.
A crowd of 6,947 watched for 101 minutes as Hawaii improved to 26-3 with its 13th consecutive win, finishing 18-1 at home this season.
The fans didn’t want to leave, chanting “Let’s Go ‘Bows” long after Hellvig put down the final kill, an aloha-filled sendoff for what will be the Wahine’s longest trip of the season some 4,100 miles away.
Hawaii advances to Friday’s third round in Madison, Wis., and will face fifth-seeded Nebraska (27-4). The Huskers, second nationally last season, eliminated Missouri earlier Saturday, 3-1.
“San Diego is a great team and my girls came out doing everything — hitting, serving, passing and blocking,” Hawaii coach Robyn Ah Mow said. “Hats off to them.
“Before the game, I told the setters that we are not a one-woman show, we have lots of weapons and obviously we used them tonight. The setters did a great job.”
Senior setter Bailey Choy had 19 assists and all three of Hawaii’s aces. Senior setter-hitter Norene Iosia finished with her 19th double-double (24 assists, 12 digs).
San Diego (25-6) lost for the first time in 11 matches, and was swept for just the second time this year. The Toreros finished the season the same way they opened it: with a loss to the Wahine.
“Hawaii played a fantastic match tonight,” USD coach Jennifer Petrie said. “I felt like we were playing six against 10,000. It is an incredible home-court advantage.
“The fans are so uplifting. It’s just electric in there, a tremendous volleyball atmosphere.”
It is the first time the Wahine have advanced to the third round since 2015, and the first time in Ah Mow’s three seasons. Hawaii has lost in five sets the past two seasons.
“I think we’ve grown so much as a team,” said Hellvig, in on four of the team’s nine blocks. “We do it together with the crowd.”
“The crowd is a big help,” freshman middle Amber Igiede said. “We fed off the crowd tonight.”
Graduating libero Rika Okino had 20 of the Wahine’s 51 digs.
Hawaii outblocked USD 9-3, five of the stuffs coming in Set 1. Junior middle Sky Williams was also in on four
Senior hitter McKenna Ross added 10 kills. Igiede had nine, putting down her first six swings in Set 1 as Hawaii set the tone for the night.
For the Toreros, West Coast Conference Freshman of the Year Grace Frohling and sophomore hitter Katie Lukes each had 10 kills.
Sophomore libero Annie Benbow had 11 digs.
Senior Anna Newsome, the WCC Setter of the Year, finished her career with a double-double (35 assists, 10 digs), and had an ace but just one kill. She had eight kills in Friday’s first-round win over No. 23 Washington State.
“We were here in the preseason and it was just as loud,” senior middle Megan Jacobsen, alluding to the five-set loss to the Wahine on Aug. 30 in the Hawaiian Airlines Classic. “Playing here is something I’ll never forget.”
In Friday’s second match at Wisconsin, fourth-seeded Wisconsin (24-11) faces 13th seed Texas A&M (23-7). The host Badgers defeated UCLA 3-0 on Saturday and the Aggies downed Rice 3-1 on Friday.
Hawaii’s region was one of two that didn’t have a seeded host upset. On Saturday, Utah swept 14th-seeded BYU and Cincinnati stunned sixth-seeded Pitt in five; the Panthers are hosts of the final four in Pittsburgh on Dec. 19 and 21.
In next week’s other third-round matches:
At Baylor, the top-seeded Bears (27-1) meet 16 seed Purdue (24-7), and No. 8 seed Washington (26-6) faces No. 9 Kentucky (25-6).
At Texas, the second-seeded Longhorns, which survived in five against UC Santa Barbara on Friday, will play Louisville (21-9), the Cardinals eliminating 15th-seeded Western Kentucky in five.
At Stanford, the defending national champion and third-seeded Cardinal (26-4) take on Utah (24-9). On Saturday, Stanford swept the Big West’s Cal Poly. In the first match, Penn State (26-5) faces Cincinnati (27-6).