Wahine rout Bobcats to bounce back
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The first time Hawaii and UCLA met in women's volleyball, it was for the 1974 AIAW national championship. The Bruins won that one, as well as the next season when they met in the 1975 title match.
They've met every year since, sometimes for the national title, sometimes for the Hawaiian Airlines Classic championship. Always it matters.
The outcome of tonight's 66th encounter means more than just the HAL Classic runner-up bowl.
For No. 12 Hawaii, it's a chance to prove last night's well-played victory over Ohio was no fluke. Led by Aneli Cubi-Otineru's nine kills, the Rainbow Wahine (1-1) got a balanced attack in sweeping the Bobcats 25-19, 25-12, 25-12.
For No. 6 UCLA (1-1), it's a chance for redemption after wilting against No. 1 Penn State (2-0) in yesterday's first match. The Nittany Lions again flexed their top-ranked muscle in a 25-22, 25-21, 25-13 sweep.
"Penn State is really, really good," UCLA coach Andy Banachowski said. "When you push them, they push back.
"For us against Hawaii, we have to attack better. I was impressed by Hawaii's intensity on defense. And it's always a great opportunity for us to start the season out here in this atmosphere. We relish the opportunity to play here."
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Perhaps all that was needed to boost their confidence and get their game going was to be able to pick on someone their own size.
Ohio fit the bill perfectly last night at the Stan Sheriff Center.
"I think we have room for improvement. ... We have a lot of potential."
Rainbow Wahine senior
Led by junior Aneli Cubi-Otineru's near-perfect hitting night and sparked by senior Nickie Thomas' return to the court for the first time in two seasons, No. 12 Hawaii rebounded from Friday's loss to No. 1 Penn State in a convincing way. Cubi-Otineru put down nine kills in 14 swings with just one error and Thomas had five kills in seven attempts and was in on four blocks in a 25-19, 25-12, 25-12 romp over the Bobcats in 74 minutes.
The victory, watched by 4,159 (5,824 tickets), set up today's 5 p.m. showdown for second place in the Hawaiian Airlines Classic between Hawaii (1-1) and No. 6 UCLA (1-1). The Bruins were swept by the Nittany Lions (2-0) in 88 minutes, 25-22, 25-21, 25-13, in yesterday's first match.
Barring a major upset, Penn State will finish its visit with the trophy. The Nittany Lions face the Bobcats (0-2) at 3 p.m.
There's quite a bit of motivation for the Rainbow Wahine, who haven't beaten the Bruins since 2005. Junior middle Amber Kaufman is well aware that she is personally 0-3 against UCLA.
"I just want to beat them," said Kaufman, who had eight kills, hitting .538, with three aces.
In order to do that, the Wahine need to play the way they did last night, Ohio coach Ryan Theis said.
"If Hawaii handles the first contact like they did against us, they have good odds," he said. "It could be a long match."
Last night was too short for Thomas, who hasn't played since going down with a knee injury in the Sept. 14, 2006, match against Cal Poly.
"It was amazing, just awesome," Thomas said. "I wish I could have played against Penn State because they're such a good team, but I'm happy (coach Dave Shoji) wanted me to play tonight.
"I think we have room for improvement. A lot of people came in and did a nice job. We have a lot of potential."
The key to the match with UCLA will be "to be not too high, not too low," Cubi-Otineru said. "They're a great team. We need to do what we did tonight. Stay composed and focused."
After hanging tough when pushed in Set 1, the Wahine simply ran away in Sets 2 and 3.
Hawaii finished with a .456 hitting percentage, its best since .516 at San Jose State in 2005. The Wahine oublocked the Bobcats 14.5 to 4 with Herring in on five and Cat Fowler, playing only in Set 3, also in on five.
Ellen Herman led Ohio with 13 kills.
Penn State 3, UCLA 0
What began as a close match turned into a rout as the Nittany Lions wore down the Bruins.
The turning point came in Set 2 when UCLA was leading 21-19. When the smoke cleared in a heated defensive battle, Penn State had reeled off six unanswered points, punctuated by Nicole Fawcett's bomb from behind the 3-meter line.
UCLA led 1-0 in Set 1, only to have Penn State go on a 6-0 run that seemed to deflate the Bruins. The Nittany Lions led by 10 most of the way, with the Bruins staying as close as they did thanks to six PSU serving errors.
At 23-13, Arielle Wilson put down the final two kills to end it after 88 minutes.
Megan Hodge led the Nittany Lions with 14 kills and Fawcett added 12. Penn State's defense was impressive, finishing with 59 digs, 19 by libero Roberta Holehouse and 15 by Fawcett.
Dicey McGraw led the Bruins with eight kills.