Here's the last match of Hawaii's second home invitational, taking on the heretofore undefeated UCLA Bruins. There's some interesting connections between the two teams in this match. UCLA head coach Michael Sealy previously served as an assistant to Hawaii's legendary head coach Dave Shoji. The Bruins' regular libero Rachel Inouye (who rather humorously stood between two very tall trees during player intros) is from Hawaii. And one of their setters (the Bruins run a 6-2) is a UH transfer, Monica Stauber. There are, of course, also several Wahine players who originally hail from Southern California.
UCLA took the first point of the match, on a total whiff from Karsta Lowe that fell in anyway. Then the Wahine got the point back when Jade Vorster had a similarly weak hit that also just happened to find the floor. The Bruins took their first real lead a little later on 4-2, when Hawaii setter Mita Uiato chose to go to Vorster to the middle despite kind of a weak pass, which in turn led to a poor set. It's tough to run the middle when that happens, and Vorster hit into the net. The Bruins put up the double block against Nikki Taylor on the next rally, leading to a 5-2 advantage. A couple of nice hits from Emily Hartong and from Taylor got the match level at 5-all. Then the Bruins had a bad pass on libero Ali Longo's serve, not legally returning the serve (I think it goes in the books as an ace, but it's kind of an awkward one as they did get a couple of hits).
On Sarah Mendoza's serve, the Wahine rattled off three straight to go up 9-6, as the Bruins' troubles in passing continued. The Bruins got their sideout from Jessyka Ngauamo, an Australian FIVB beach 'pro' (college kids can play the events — Summer Ross did a few when she was still a collegian — they just can't take prize money). But Hawaii got the next service point, with Hartong powering through a double block on the left side for an 11-7 lead. The Bruins took their first timeout when the deficit reached five at 14-9, with a right-side kill from Taylor on an odd flat-footed approach. I'm guessing Michael Sealy probably saw something from his defence that he didn't particularly care for.
Kelly Reeves got the Bruins their sideout on 14-10 straight out of the timeout, but just as quickly the Wahine extended to six. A kill from Taylor got them their sideout, and then Hartong's serve on 15-10 led to some silly ball handling on the UCLA side. At 16-10, the Bruin back row let Hartong's serve go — only to see it land a good foot in bounds. The Wahine had to send over a free ball on 17-10, with a lot of miscommunication with their front row, but a hitting miscue on the Bruin side gave them the point anyway, as they extended to 18-10. A service error from Hartong finally sided the Bruins out, and they added two more to draw back to within five, including a great shot from Karsta Lowe that was just unblockable. I thought Dave Shoji might have called timeout there, but instead he went to a sub, bringing in Ashley Kastl. Taylor got the Wahine their sideout on 19-13 by gobbling up an overpass, and the sideouts kept flowing again, to favour Hawaii.
A weird play happened to put the Wahine up six on 21-15, as Kalei Adolpho found the seam in Reeves' single block, hitting the ball off her head and out for the kill. The next service point went to Hawaii, with Kastl's kill from the pipe to put them up 23-16. The Wahine reached set point on 24-17 and got it gifted to them on their reception attempt, as Reeves' service error ended set 1 25-18.
The Wahine got the second set started with an emphatic point, as they put the double block up against Lowe (who really had a pretty quiet first set) for the rejection. Hartong's second ace of the night afforded the Wahine the first true lead of the set, on 3-1. A hitting miscue from Adolpho, directly into the waiting arms of Mariana Aquino on the other side, brought the match even. A rare unforced error off the hand of Hartong gave the Bruins their first tiny lead of the set at 5-4. That was followed by a string of sideout-for-sideout, ending with a double block from Lowe and Zoë Nightingale against Hartong on the left side. A bad set by UCLA setter Monica Stauber, the Hawaii transfer, tied the set at 9's. Then, again, the teams touched off an even exchange of points. Hawaii edged ahead at 15-13 with another setting miscue from Stauber and a kill from Tai Manu-Olevao on the slide play, leading to a technical timeout.
The first rally back from the timeout was a pretty long one, ending with a double block for Adolpho and Vorster against Reeves to put the Wahine up by three. The Bruins came back within a point on 17-16, with an awkward set by Megan Moenoa leading to a doubly awkward pushing shot for Nightingale, and the ball found the floor. Nightingale's long hit made it three again on 19-16, and UCLA called their first charged timeout. Hartong got the kill off a roll shot on the first rally after the timeout, on an out-of-system set from Kastl. The next serve was overpassed by the Bruins, leading to an easy Hartong kill, and just that quickly it was timeout number two for UCLA. The Bruins went to Lowe on their first set after the timeout, and she tried the roll shot as well, but it sailed wide. A more traditional set went Lowe's way on the next rally, and the double block from Vorster and Taylor was waiting for her. It just went further downhill for UCLA from there. The Bruins managed one sideout in the face of the hurricane, but Hartong's third ace of the night sent the Wahine into halftime with a 2 sets to nil lead. The final was 25-17.
My pathetic excuse for a computer caused me to miss the first several points of set 3. I came back just in time to see Hartong get her thirteenth kill of the night to put Hawaii up 11-9. On the next rally, a rather quick double hit call came against the Wahine. Hartong, the Hawaii floor captain, protested, and after an officials conference the call was play-over. On the second 11-9 rally, Uiato and Vorster connected up the middle for an easy to kill to make it 12-9. On the next rally, Lowe hit a weak little duck snort right into Hartong's block for another point to the Wahine, and UCLA called time.
The Bruins got their sideout on another weirdly weak hit, sending Reeves back to serve. She found the sideline for an ace, much to the displeasure of Dave Shoji. Reeves' second serve drilled the net. From 14-10, new libero Karly Drolson (she played as a DS in sets 1 and 2, but changed into the white jersey for the 3rd) rattled off three straight on serve, with Aquino doing some damage in the front row. UCLA drew even at 15's when the Hawaii offence broke down a little, eventually getting whistled for four contacts. Moenoa's deeply long service error kept the Bruins from taking the lead. Mendoza went to the service line on 16-15, and found the floor for an ace. Then on 17-15, the teams played a very long rally that either side could have terminated, ending with Hawaii's MVP Hartong finally getting the kill. That led to several sideouts in a row, and UCLA's Claire Felix (newly inserted MB for set 3) gave Hawaii the next service point with a mis-hit putting the Wahine up 21-17. UCLA called their second timeout there. Felix wound up ending her night at 0/3/3, which is surely not what Mike Sealy was looking for.
A double hit against UCLA setter Jordan Robbins (another dubious third set insertion) put Hawaii on the cusp at 22-17. Kills from Vorster and Hartong brought us to match point, Aloha Ball on 24-18. Ginger Long found the floor, on her only swing of the night, to finish off a surprising laugher.
#9 Hawaii d. #10 UCLA (25-18, 25-17, 25-18)
UCLA did not look good tonight, first and foremost their setters. Moenoa but especially Stauber with just error after error. It's early yet, and there's time to turn things around, but you have to sort of worry if this sort of performance might be what's in store for the Bruins against higher-calibre teams like Hawaii. They entered tonight's match 5-0 with wins over Albany, North Texas, Loyola Marymount, Santa Clara, and New Mexico State. Not exactly top-level opposition, no offence intended to any of those teams. The Bruins will have another 'measuring stick' match next weekend against Creighton, and an intriguing non-conference counter against Long Beach State before conference season begins.They'll certainly want the ship righted by then.
Hawaii still mostly relied on Hartong, even if it seemed that the ball was a little more distributed tonight than last night. I suppose she always will (and always should) have the most swings, it's just a matter of how much reliance on her is too much. Hartong had 15 kills on .333 hitting, a very strong night indeed. The next highest number of swings was from Manu-Olevao, who had 15 attempts but actually hit a negative efficiency with 4 kills and 5 errors. The Wahine had 9 total team blocks to 7 for UCLA, with Adolpho leading the way there as she was in on five of them.
Reeves led the Bruins in scoring, but had only 8 kills to show for the night. Eight kills in three sets, and that being your leading scorer….yikes. Not what you want to see. Lowe had a very poor match by her standards, hitting a rather scant 7/5/20 for just a .100 efficiency. Aquino played a nice third set, but got only 8 chances at the ball for the night, going 5/1/8 for a .500 efficiency, to go along with 5 blocks.
The Bruins' next match is against the University of Denver, at the Pioneers' home invitational, while the Wahine will have their third home invitational next weekend, drawing Portland State first.