Hawaii coach Robyn Ah Mow called a lineup switch to start Friday’s match at Cal State Bakersfield “a team thing.”
The Rainbow Wahine indeed used much of the roster to pull out a four-set win over the host Roadrunners and maintain their lead in the Big West standings.
Going with a new look at the outside hitter positions to open the match, the Rainbow Wahine remained middle-centric as sophomore Amber Igiede put away a career-high 20 kills and senior Skyler Williams also set a career best with 16 in a 26-24, 24-26, 25-23, 25-19 victory at the Icardo Center in Bakersfield, Calif.
“There were I don’t know how many times they were getting triple-blocked and still getting kills,” Ah Mow said of the middle tandem. “Until somebody stops them, why not? And then it opens up for the outsides later in the game.”
UH improved to 19-6 overall and 16-1 in conference play and stretched its winning streak to eight going into today’s match at Cal Poly. The Wahine remained two games ahead of second place UC Santa Barbara, which swept UC Davis on Friday, with three matches left in the regular season.
UH opened the match without kills leader Brooke Van Sickle and sophomore Riley Wagoner, who ranked third on the team, in the starting lineup. Freshman Mia Johnson made her third start of the season and was joined by Braelyn Akana, who made her first on-court appearance since Oct. 22. Freshman Martyna Leoniak also rotated into the lineup in the first two sets.
“It’s a team thing and it is what it is. That’s all I’’m going to say,” Ah Mow said of the switch.
“Going into it and going into some of our practices this past week we told them, ‘Just gotta step up and come to play,’ and I feel like they did. They did a great job.”
Johnson finished with seven kills in 14 attempts and Tiffany Westerberg, who was inserted into the starting lineup for last week’s homestand, added six.
Van Sickle entered the match to start the third set and finished with eight kills 12 attempts over the final two sets. Wagoner came in midway through the third and finished off the set with the first of her four kills.
“Everyone was playing such great volleyball and think it was just the energy on the court at all times that helped us,” said UH setter Kate Lang, who finished with 53 assists and ran an offense that hit .346. “It was definitely a team win tonight. I think everybody got a chance to really give their all energy-wise, communication-wise, playing-wise, everything. It was a big team win, so it felt really great.”
CSU Bakersfield (17-9, 10-8) served up five aces in the first set, but when UH’s passing steadied, Lang kept Igiede and Williams busy, with the duo hitting a combined .534 with five errors in 58 swings. Igiede passed her previous career high of 17 set last week and became the first UH middle to reach 20 kills since Emily Maglio put away 27 in a five-set loss at Cal Poly on Oct. 27, 2017.
“I have so much faith in them it doesn’t matter the size of the blockers across from us,” Lang said “I know I can give them the ball and they’ll put it down. It’s a really great feeling to have.”
The Wahine and Roadrunners traded momentum swings in a first set that saw 16 ties and eight lead changes. The last came after CSUB earned set point at 24-23 on its fifth ace of the set. After a UH timeout, Williams scored in the middle and a CSUB hitting error gave UH set point. Igiede then put away a kill on a second touch to give the Wahine the lead in the match.
CSUB turned the tables in the second set and closed with a 3-0 run after UH went up 24-23. Milica Vukobrat gave CSUB the lead with consecutive kills and a UH hitting error tied the match at one set apiece.
Van Sickle started the third set and put away four of her first five attempts and served an ace that gave UH a 20-16 lead. CSUB rallied to tie the set 22-22, but Igiede hammered back-to-back kills and Wagoner’s first kill of the night gave UH the set and a 2-1 lead.
The Wahine rolled the momentum into the fourth set and led 6-2 when Wagoner hammered an overpass. The Wahine reached match point at 24-18 on Igiede’s final kill and a CSUB service error ended the match.
Hana Makonova led four Roadrunners in double figures with 15 kills in the Roadrunners’ home finale. Libero Paige Calvin served up four of CSUB’s eight aces.
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