Wahine's season alive another week


POSTED: Sunday, December 06, 2009

LOS ANGELES » Not a good blocking team?

More like not good until it was needed.

Some of it was luck. Some of it was timing. Some of it was determination that it would not go to a fifth set.

All of it added up to No. 3 Hawaii moving on to the NCAA volleyball regional semifinals this week at Stanford.

Senior hitter Aneli Cubi-Otineru and freshman middle Brittany Hewitt combined on consecutive blocks for the match's final two points and the Rainbow Wahine held off the Women of Troy 25-20, 25-18, 16-25, 27-25. Hawaii (30-2) needed 1 hour and 54 minutes to run its winning streak to 26 and end USC's season for the third time in four years.

“;We weathered the storm, as Dave (coach Shoji) likes to say,”; said Cubi-Otineru, who finished with 14 kills and 12 digs. “;Last year, we beat them in three. They were good, fought hard, but it wasn't a battle. This one was.”;

The war to get respect and to the final four continues Friday when the 12th-seeded Rainbow Wahine take on fifth-seeded Illinois (26-4) in Friday's first match at Maples Pavilion.

Fourth-seeded Stanford (23-7) nearly became an absentee host before rallying to beat Saint Mary's in five last night. The Cardinal face Michigan (26-9), a 3-2 winner over Ohio, in Friday's second match.

The Pac-10, with the highest conference RPI, is down to two teams: Stanford and Cal. UCLA and Oregon, both seeded in the top 16, lost last night.

“;I think this validates that we're a good team,”; Shoji said. “;We did feel slighted. The WAC has been blasted for a weak RPI and the Pac-10 supposedly was the strongest.

“;Not many people outside of Hawaii thought we'd win this match. This was a good win for our program and our league, against a very good SC team that had won its last six Pac-10 matches.”;

Hawaii controlled last night's match at the Galen Center for the first two sets, with sophomore Kanani Danielson putting down 12 of her match-high 23 kills in the opening 40 minutes. The Wahine defense had USC hitting .000 in Set 1 and .171 in Set 2 “;because we blocked what were their tendencies and started touching balls,”; Cubi-Otineru said. “;They got frustrated.”;

Not helping the Women of Troy was the lack of success by sophomore hitter Alex Jupiter. She had 23 kills in Friday's win over Oklahoma but didn't have a kill last night until early in Set 2.

The Wahine came out flat in Set 3 and the Women of Troy took advantage. Several good serving rotations by USC put Hawaii in holes of 11-4, 17-8 and 23-13.

The Wahine seemed to regain control in Set 4 and were enjoying a 23-19 lead when things began to unravel. Geena Urango served for four straight as the Women of Troy gained their first set point at 24-23.

“;We knew we needed that one big play to change things,”; said junior libero Elizabeth Ka'aihue, who anchored the defense with a match-high 20 digs. We groveled, but we found a way.”;

After a Danielson kill tied it, Lauren Williams put down her 14th kill to give USC a second chance at pushing it to five. Hawaii pushed back with a kill by Cubi-Otineru to knot it at 25; she and Hewitt then combined for UH's eighth and ninth blocks to punch their regional ticket.

Shoji, who turned 63 on Friday, enjoyed the belated birthday gift.

“;You've got to make good plays at the end to win these kinds of matches,”; he said. “;It gets down to who can make the plays, and we made three at the end.”;

And Hawaii did it with a banged-up Amber Kaufman (abdominal), who didn't have her timing on several step-outs but still finished with 12 kills. Danielson (adding 11 digs), Cubi-Otineru (12 digs) and setter Dani Mafua (54 assists, 10 digs) all had double-doubles.

Williams was the only USC player in double-figure kills (14).

“;It was a pretty interesting match,”; USC coach Mick Haley said. “;That we could battle back the way we did was pretty impressive. And we had our opportunities to go to five.

“;But give Hawaii credit. They played magnificent defense. Their coaches did a good job anticipating what we were going to do before we even did it. We'll have to change that since we're obviously easy to read.”;


NO. 3 HAWAII DEF. USC 25-20, 25-18, 16-25, 27-25




































































































































































Women of Troy (22-10)
 skeatt pctdbsbapts



Rainbow Wahine (30-2)
 skeatt pctdbsbapts

Key —s: games; k: kills; e: hitting errors; att: attempts; pct: hitting percentage; d: digs; bs: block solo; ba: block assists; pts: points (kills plus blocks plus aces)
Aces—USC (2): Roledar, Urango. Hawaii (3): Kaufman, Mafua, Ka'aihue . Service Errors—USC (5): Urango 3, Jupiter, Roledar. Hawaii (7): Brandt 3, Ka'aihue 2, Mafua, Lee. Assists—USC (34): Bateman 31, Gysin, Eichler, Roledar. Hawaii (57): Mafua 54, Cubi-Otineru 2, Ka'aihue.
T—1:54. Officials—Patsy Malta, Kim Pickering. A—1,355.