Nov. 24 – Before leaving for the final road trip of the regular season, Robyn Ah Mow sought advice from a former mentor.
Before leaving for the final road trip of the regular season, Robyn Ah Mow sought advice from a former mentor.
The sixth-year University of Hawaii coach has extensive experience competing at UC Santa Barbara, where the Rainbow Wahine take on the Gauchos in a matchup between the top two teams in the Big West Conference women’s volleyball championship on Friday.
When it comes to planning a Thanksgiving meeting for the travel party in Santa Barbara, California, she could use some guidance from UH coaching legend and UCSB graduate Dave Shoji.
“I said, ‘Dave, do you know a place we can take the girls?’ “Ah Mow said earlier this week about the team’s still uncertain holiday plans.
“It’s sad that we can’t be (home). Some of the girls don’t have family here so we usually have somewhere to go where we can party… Being together as a team will do them good. “
Already a tight-knit group, the Rainbow Wahine (20-6, 17-1 Big West) left for California on Wednesday with a unique focus. They needed a win on the two-game road trip to earn a third straight conference championship 40th berth of the program’s NCAA tournament.
Their first opportunity comes Friday against UCSB (20-9, 16-3) in the Thunderdome, where a long streak continues while another ends.
The Wahine then wrap up the regular season Saturday at Cal State Northridge (9/22, 4/15) at the Premier America Credit Union Arena.
UH and UCSB finished the Big West race 1-2 last year, with Wahine taking the title before UCSB managed to spoil seniors night at SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center to end the regular season.
This year’s UH team will seek the turnaround in Friday’s Gaucho finals at the Thunderdome, where they are 11-0 this season.
The Wahine enter the rematch with a 10-game season-high that began with a win over CSUN on October 21 in Manoa, followed by a four-set win over UCSB.
UH hit sweeps in five of their last six games, led by a defense averaging 15.2 digs per set to feed offense. After the Wahine scored 51 digs in a quick win over CSU Bakersfield last Sunday, Ah Mow noted the work players — and coaches — have done over the past few weeks to improve their defense at practice.
“We definitely hammered the defense. My arms hurt, my back hurts but it makes me smile,” Ah Mow said of UH’s total dig after the seniors ceremony.
“The ball goes off the block and they run balls (below). (Outside hitter Kendra Ham) goes and she dives on the one hand, we’re working on it. We’ve been working on this for the last two weeks and it shows. “
UH’s defensive efforts provided extended runs in last weekend’s wins over Cal Poly and CSUB. After giving up the first set against Cal Poly on Friday, the Wahine assembled service runs of at least seven points in the next six sets, including 10- and 13-point jumps in sets 2 and 3 against the Mustangs.
“It shows that we take the information that (the coaches) give us and use it in the game,” said UH winger Riley Wagoner, who had 10 swipes in each game.
“It just goes out there and plays, and when those runs come, it’s great, but you have to keep grinding.”
Wahine led the Wahine with 17 kills on .292 hitting and had 13 digs in UH’s 25-21, 20-25, 25-18, 25-22 win over UCSB on Oct. 22. Michelle Ohwobete led the Gauchos with 18 kills and enters in the rematch averaged a team-high 3.27 kills per set.
UCSB middle blocker Deni Wilson leads the Big West at 1.37 blocks per set, followed by UH’s Amber Igiede at 1.31. Igiede continues to lead the league with 4.85 points per set.
UCSB started their homestand Tuesday with a 25-19, 25-20, 25-18 win over CSUN to keep their flickering title hopes alive. The Gauchos need a win on Friday and a UH loss on Saturday to set the Big West tiebreakers in effect, which could favor UCSB given their 2-0 record against current third-ranked Cal Poly, while UH are 1-1 against the Mustangs : 1 went.
UH quickly finished off CSUN in a 25-15, 25-18, 25-18 sweep in their first meeting, batting .381 against the Matadors’ .168.
While the Wahine remain “selected” (as Ah Mow often puts it), the Cal Poly match also showed the benefits of a relaxed game. After a tight opening set, the Wahine broke the tension, rolling through the next two and rallying late in the fourth.
“We have a lot of personality in this team,” said Waggoner. “When that shows up on the pitch, we have the most fun. And just playing loose was often a goal for us, because then we play the best volleyball.”
Big West Women’s Volleyball