Another title for Hawai’i
Appeal News Service
RENO – Same story, different chapter.
The 12th-ranked University of Hawai’i volleyball team won its seventh straight Western Athletic Conference Tournament title Friday night, beating No. 21 New Mexico State 30-27, 30-20, 29-31 and 30-22 at Lawlor Events Center.
“We had a little more sense of urgency since they did beat us,” said Hawai’i coach Dave Shoji, whose team split with the Aggies in the regular season. “We had to have some motivation besides winning the WAC. A rubber match is something these players wanted. We still think of the loss.”
With the championship crown, Hawai’i (26-5) wins the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament while NMSU (33-3), which became the fifth different title game opponent against Hawai’i, will wait to hear on Selection Sunday to hear if it will be dancing in the big tournament.
Sarah Mason powered the Rainbow Wahine with 18 kills and completed a double-double with 16 digs. Jamie Houston recorded 16 kills and Kanoe Kamana’o dished out 45 assists and Jayme Lee had 12 digs.
Mason, Houston, Kamana’o and Kari Gregory were named to the all-tournament team and Houston garnered MVP honors. Houston’s MVP award marks the six straight time a Hawai’i player has won it.
“We weren’t finished until the scoreboard read 30,” Kamana’o said.
Kim Oguh led the Aggies with 14 kills and Amber Simpson added 12. Jackie Choi dished out a match-high 49 assists and Krystal Torres led the team in digs with 16.
“When we play our best we’re very comparable to that team,” Choi said. “They were a very good blocking team. Their setter’s very good at recognizing who would get one-on-one. I wish I was better than that.”
Choi, Oguh and Simpson earned all-tournament team honors. Niki Clement of San Jose State was the final member added to the team.
Aggies coach Mike Jordan said he wasn’t satisfied with the team’s defense.
“You give them credit for flying around and making those plays,” Jordan said of Hawai’i. “We’re capable of going on big-point runs. We just got stuck on rotation (in game 1). In game 2 we didn’t play defense. We made some ridiculous defensive miscues. I felt pretty good about our volleyball play for the most part. We just couldn’t get it done.”
Blocking and errors provided to be the difference in the third meeting between the WAC’s top two teams.
NMSU committed 62 errors in the game, including 40 on the attack end, in contrast to Hawai’i’s 36. The Rainbow Wahine outblocked the Aggies 21-5, including nine block assists each from Juliana Sanders and Gregory.
Shoji was pleased Hawai’i stuck to its plan with blocking.
“Our players, again, followed the game plan pretty well as far as the blocking scheme,” Shoji said. “We got off to a slow start in games 1 and 2 which is something we don’t want to make a habit of. We did a nice job blocking and we did a nice job on their outsides. We forced them to set on their middles.”
Jordan knew Hawai’i was a good blocking team and figures it is one of the best in the country.
“We know they’re a really good blocking team,” Jordan said. “There’s very few teams in the country that can block better them. We wound up soft-blocking too many.”