Hawaii outside hitter Riley Wagoner put away her 18th kill on match point and the Rainbow Wahine volleyball team rallied past UC Santa Barbara in five sets to capture its third straight Big West Conference championship today in Santa Barbara, Calif.
Wagoner also sparked the UH defense with 17 digs in a 23-25, 25-20, 26-28, 25-18, 15-11 win in the Thunderdome and the Rainbow Wahine (21-6, 18-1 Big West) secured the program’s 40th appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
UH closes the regular season on Saturday at Cal State Northridge. The NCAA Tournament selection show is set for 2:30 p.m. on Sunday.
UH middle blocker Amber Igiede tied Wagoner for match-high honors with 18 kills on .417 hitting and was in on five blocks. Outside hitter Caylen Alexander finished with 16 kills and opposite Braelyn Akana added 10 kills.
Setter Kate Lang tied a season high with 55 assists and matched her career high with 17 digs and also had six kills for a UH attack that hit .318. UH libero Tayli Ikenaga finished with 13 digs.
UCSB outside hitter Michelle Ohwobete led the Gauchos (20-10, 16-4) with 17 kills, Tallulah Froley added 16 and Tasia Farmer had 15 in their regular-season finale. Punahou alumna Mehana Ma’a had 33 assists and 13 digs.
The Gauchos and Wahine traded early runs and 10 consecutive sideouts before UH edged out to a 19-16 lead in the first set. UCSB went on a 3-0 run and there would be three more ties until Froley scored from the right side to give the Gauchos set point and Ohwobete ended the set.
The second set was knotted at 14 when UH went on a 5-0 run capped by a Kendra Ham ace. UCSB closed to 22-20, but UH scored the next three points, with Akana’s roll shot landing in to even the match. UCSB raced to a 13-5 lead in the third set before UH responded with an 8-2 surge. The Wahine caught the Gauchos at 22-22 when Lang hammered an overpass and they fought off two set points before earning one of their own at 26-25. UCSB survived, then moved ahead on a Deni Wilson kill in the middle and took the set with an ace from Nia Correal.
UH edged out to a 16-12 lead in the fourth set and took command when Lang’s free ball found an open spot and she followed with an ace to give UH a 21-14 lead on its way to forcing a fifth set.
The teams traded three-point runs early in the fifth and UH took the lead for good with a 6-1 run capped by a kill from Akana. UH then ended it on its second attempt at match point when Wagoner’s kill landed in the middle of the UCSB defense.