Hawaii's Lily Kahumoku, who had 22 kills last night, Kim Willoughby, with 19 kills, and Maja Gustin celebrated last night's win.

Huskies unable to finish

Hawaii advances to regional

By Cindy Luis

Gretchen Maurer understands the water, the tides, the surges, the swells. She's an accomplished surfer and an award-winning lifeguard.

But for all her knowledge, the Washington senior setter still couldn't save her team last night. Despite playing one of the finest matches of her career, Maurer and the Huskies were swept out of the NCAA tournament by a Hawaii wave that crashed on UW's upset hopes.

The No. 2 Wahine (32-1) sent the unranked Huskies (20-11) back to Seattle via a 30-26, 39-37, 30-25 defeat in the second round of the West Regional at the Stan Sheriff Center. The announced crowd was 6,596, the second-largest Washington had played in front of this season; the largest was 7,365 back on Sept. 4 when the Huskies fell to the Wahine 3-1.

Last night, UW couldn't duplicate what had happened three months ago -- taking a game off Hawaii. The Huskies tried ... and tried ... and tried in Game 2, having seven game-points, but were unable to come up with one last point during the marathon 40-minute set.

It was frustrating, knowing that Hawaii was hitting below .200 and was out of subs with it tied at 34-34. The Huskies had two more swings at evening the match at one game apiece, at 35-34 and 37-36.

"Emotionally, it would have meant a lot to win it," said UW senior hitter Paige Benjamin, who finished with a team-high 17 kills. "They terminated in transition when it counted. There were more than a few long rallies and the difference was their ability to terminate. But we never felt we were out of this match."

Hawaii's Lily Kahumoku hit one over Washington setter Gretchen Maurer last night.

But the Huskies just couldn't finish it at the ends of all three games.

"It was definitely hard to lose," said Maurer, who led the Pac-10 in assists this season. "Hawaii did a great job at the end of every game. We just couldn't finish it."

"At times, it was unreal out there," said UW coach Jim McLaughlin, who won a national championship when coaching the Southern California men's team. "There was big-time volleyball going on out there. Hawaii elevated for sure when they had to. They were impressive. It came down to who would win the defense-to-offense transition.

"We've improved a lot since the last time we saw them. Tonight was both intense and emotional. We tried to get on some tendencies, but they have two of the best outsides in the country. Not too many people block Kim Willoughby or Lily (Kahumoku).

"The game (of volleyball) is won and lost, percentage-wise, on the left side. They have two of the best. In my mind, I think it's Hawaii, Stanford and USC (in the final four). Those three are above everyone else."

It was the first time UW had made it to the NCAA tournament since 1997. Back then, Maurer and Hawaii senior setter Jen Carey were playing together for Saddleback (Calif.) Volleyball Club.

"Wow, she has really come a long way as a setter," said Carey. "I was asking myself, 'That's the same Gretchen I played with?' She did a very good job at leading her team and getting them into the NCAA tournament for the first time in a long time."

It was little consolation for Maurer, who ends her career among the all-time UW assist leaders.

"It's been a long four years," she said. "We've come a long way. Jim (McLaughlin) has turned our team upside down for the better, where we've gone from the bottom of the conference to the top half. He's done a world of good and this team will be good in the future."

UH Athletics

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