Hawaii’s bus ride out of San Luis Obispo, Calif., was far sweeter this time around.
For the first time since 2016, the Rainbow Wahine volleyball team rolled out of the Mott Athletics Center after a win over Cal Poly on Saturday, leaving town with at least a share of the Big West title.
Rainbow Wahine outside hitter Riley Wagoner put away a match-high 12 kills and middle blocker Amber Igiede added 10 kills and seven blocks in a 25-22, 25-18, 25-20 sweep of Cal Poly to snap a three-match losing streak on the Mustangs’ home court.
“We had a slow start, but the girls played through it and did some nice things today,” UH assistant coach Kaleo Baxter said in a phone interview. “We knew they were going to be a tough team and they were. But it feels great to come out with a victory at Cal Poly.”
With UH’s first win in San Luis Obispo during head coach Robyn Ah Mow’s tenure, the Rainbow Wahine (20-6, 17-1 Big West) also stretched their winning streak to a season-high nine in a row to remain two games ahead of second-place UC Santa Barbara with two matches left in the regular season.
The Rainbow Wahine can clinch the outright title and the Big West’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament with one win or a UCSB loss this week.
UCSB (19-11, 15-3) swept UC Riverside on Saturday and plays at Cal State Northridge on Tuesday. The Rainbow Wahine open their final homestand of the season on Friday against CSUN and host UCSB on Saturday in their regular-season finale at SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center.
“We still have one more weekend, so we’re going to push as hard as we can to make sure we get that first spot,” Wagoner said.
Wagoner and Brooke Van Sickle returned to starting roles on Saturday after coming off the bench to help close out a four-set win at Cal State Bakersfield on Friday.
A night after UH dominated in the middle with 20 kills from Igiede and 16 from Skyler Williams, Wagoner posted double-digit kills for the ninth time this season and Van Sickle added nine kills in 20 attempts. Tiffany Westerberg also tied her season high with seven kills.
“We’ve been working really hard in the gym and we really trust anyone that gets put on the floor and we trust that Coach Rob knows what the best lineup is,” Wagoner said. “We really trust in each other, and I think that really shows on the court.”
Cal Poly jumped out to a 6-1 lead on Saturday on three consecutive blocks in the first set. Trailing 14-9, UH rallied to catch the Mustangs with a five-point run with Janelle Gong on the service line and took a 16-15 lead on an ace by Wagoner. The Wahine held off Cal Poly the rest of the way and finished the set when Igiede hammered an overpass of Gong’s serve.
“I think our hitters just started to hit smarter and higher,” Baxter said. “They’re a big block and they scouted us. Our passing settled in and (setter) Kate (Lang) was able to start to run her offense.”
UH posted four blocks in the second set and took control with a 6-1 run to open up a 19-11 lead on its way to going up 2-0 in the match.
Van Sickle and Tayli Ikenaga served up aces to help UH surge to a 12-6 lead in the third set. Cal Poly battled back to tie it 18-18. But a Mustangs error and consecutive kills by Igiede gave UH a 21-18 lead. Cal Poly closed again to 21-20 before UH closed out the match with a 4-0 run capped by a block by Igiede.
Tommi Stockham led Cal Poly with nine kills. UH hit .252 for the match to Cal Poly’s .142.
Ikenaga led the UH defense with 14 digs and Lang finished with 34 assists and nine digs. Gong had seven digs and UH won 12 points on her 19 service attempts.
Gong, Van Sickle and Williams were recognized as part of Cal Poly’s senior night ceremony prior to the match.
“Janelle’s been very steady for us all year,” Baxter said. “She’s passing a great ball, she makes plays defensively and she’s consistent with her serve. She’s just going in there and doing her job.”
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