At the Net

A Hawai’i volleyball blog by the voice of Rainbow Warrior & Rainbow Wahine Volleyball.

12 September 2018

Week three for the Rainbow Wahine saw their first and only non-conference tournament of the 2018 season. This would have been the second one in these first three weeks, but Hurricane Lane had other ideas. This tournament didn’t feature a traditional powerhouse program nor one that has had a lot of postseason success, but it did give a chance for the ‘Bows to continue working on that consistent lineup and fine tune their all-around game for the all-important conference play that begins later this month. A 2-1 record for this tournament left a lot of positives but some things to work on heading into week 4.

A couple of the takeaways from the first four matches were evident throughout this past week. Another slow start for Hawai’i in their match against an Idaho team that had 5 seniors in their 7-player starting lineup. Despite being down 14-7 in the first set, the Bows found a way to make a comeback and win the set by 4 points. A big addition to the rotation for UH was the insertion of Middle Blocker Natasha Burns in the middle of set 2. In the postgame interview, she mentioned to us that even if you’re not a starter, you must be ready to go with the scouting report in mind if your name is called to go in as a substitute. You can’t teach height and with her being 6’5”, she was able to put down 4 of the teams’ blocks in addition to adding 9 kills. Her ability to read the offense on the other side of the net helped the momentum swing back in the Bows’ favor after losing the second set 25-23. UH would win that match in 4 sets.

Portland came in undefeated and hadn’t really played anyone when looking at their schedule. They run a very quick-tempo offense and they are very efficient (they came in at No. 4 in the NCAA in hitting percentage, .307). They featured three Hawai’i high school products on their roster and two of them were in the starting lineup. Middle Blocker Shayla Hoeft (Seabury) and Libero Carey Williams (Kahuku) had individual performances they won’t forget as the Pilots beat the Rainbow Wahine 15-8 in the 5th set. A good takeaway-Norene Iosia accomplished something that is more so seen in basketball…a triple-double. Her career-high 15 kills, to go along with 14 assists and 13 digs kept UH in the match. A bad takeaway-the inability to side out once again. Look at the 5th set where UH was down by 4 at the turn (4-8) and got it to within 8-9. A UH service error (8-10) and then five natural points for the Pilots off their serve ended UH’s 3-match win streak. The ugly takeaway-Set 2 almost saw UH be held to single digits in points. Hawai’i would score a couple of points to avoid that, but the 11-25 second set score was the worst set loss for UH since the 2009 Regional Semifinal against Stanford (9-25).

The San Diego State match featured a first in Rainbow Wahine history: two UH alumnae as head coaches against one another. The head coach for the Aztecs, Deitre Collins-Parker, was one of the best to ever don a Rainbow Wahine uniform. She was one of the reasons two of the four championship banners (1982, 1983) hang above the Stan Sheriff Center floor. So appreciative of her time as a Rainbow Wahine and always loves to bring her teams out to the island. Offensively, McKenna Granato struggled offensively and didn’t have a kill in the 1st set. She would go on to have 4 total for the match (keep in mind coming into this match she was averaging over 4 kills a set). Natasha Burns was big again, adding in a career-high 15 kills and a season-high 5 blocks. Casey Castillo chipped in a season-high 12 kills and Angel Gaskin looked more comfortable on the right-side, putting down a career-high 10 kills as UH won in 4 sets. They’d finish the Outrigger Volleyball Challenge for the third-straight year with a 2-1 record and a second-place finish.

A big congratulations to both Tita Akiu and Natasha Burns, who were each named to the All-Tournament Team. Akiu was very important all weekend. Over the three matches, she recorded 70 digs (including a career-high 26 vs Portland) while passing almost 80% of the court on serve-receive. This past Monday, Akiu was named the Big West Conference Defensive Player of the Week, UH’s 1st individual conference award of the season.

A very good Oregon (5-3) team arrived on Tuesday with a win over then-No. 1 Minnesota on a neutral court last week at the Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge. They have already played three matches against the Top 5, going 1-3. According to prepvolleyball.com, the Ducks feature the 4th-best recruiting class. Add that to their No. 2 class for 2016 and another No. 4 class for 2015 and Head Coach Matt Ulmer has a lot of talent on the floor. Pac-12 Freshman of the Week, Brooke Nuneviller, leads the Ducks with 4.65 digs/set. Their setter, August Raskie leads the Pac-12 and is second nationally with 12.73 assists/set.

Three players (Willow Johnson, Ronika Stone and Lindsey Vander Weide) each average over three kills per set and the Ducks are No. 1 in the Pac-12, third nationally with 15.23 kills/set. Oregon also features a Kamehameha alumna, Sophomore defensive specialist/libero Kyra Hanawahine.

I hope those in Maui County, as well for those on Oahu stay safe this week through Tropical Storm Olivia and also to our friends from Coastal Carolina who will see Hurricane Florence in the next couple of days. Located in Conway, S.C., the campus less than 10 miles from the ocean and the Chanticleers have already cancelled their home tournament that was supposed to be later in the week. Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone who is bracing for this powerful storm.

Things to remember: Hawai’i hasn’t faced a ranked team this season (Hurricane Lane took away the match against nationally ranked UCLA that was scheduled in week 1) and has lost their last 10 against the Top 25. Their last such win came in 2015, a regional semifinal 3-0 win vs Penn State. The last regular season win against a nationally ranked team came in September of 2015 when UH beat then-No. 2 Florida in 5 sets. This is also the only Pac-12 team that UH faces in the regular season (2017: UH went 0-2, losses to UCLA and Utah). UH hasn’t beaten a Pac-12 team since 2016 when the Bows outlasted USC in the 1st round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament.

Both UH matches are on ESPN 1420 this week. Our prematch show begins at 6:50 p.m. on Thursday and Friday. You can also listen on our Sideline Hawai’i app, available for free at the App Store or Google Play. If you’re in the arena, you can listen our special FM frequency (106.5 FM). Our website (espn1420am.com) has a listen live player as well. You can also follow me on twitter (@tiffersHI) for all things volleyball.
#hawaiiwvb #GoBows

5 September 2018

What a weekend for the University of Hawaii. Women’s Soccer picks up two wins (Saint Mary’s and Pacific) on the continent, UH Football scores a home-opening win versus Navy and Women’s Volleyball sweeps their way to two victories against Coastal Carolina.

The product and result on the floor in Week Two looked vastly different from what was put out there in Week 1. UH looked more comfortable in a normal environment, which was a far cry from the prior week, when Hurricane Lane created chaos with the schedule.

For the third and fourth time this season, UH was led in kills by McKenna Granato. The senior from Punahou has also been active defensively, with double-digit digs in three of those four matches to give her three double-doubles so far. What has been a nice addition has been the consistent offensive production of senior Casey Castillo. She has become a smarter hitter; her attacks may not be the hardest hit balls in a match, but her near 3 kills per set and her attack percentage (around .300) are where you’d like your outside hitter to be.

UH’s modified 6-2 system has Faith Ma‘afala setting when Norene Iosia is in the front row. When Iosia comes to the back row to serve and then set, Ma‘afala heads to the bench and is replaced Angel Gaskin. It gives Hawai’i three front-row attackers at all times, and it allows Gaskin to focus primarily on hitting and blocking. Gaskin looked more comfortable on the floor in Week 2 but does need to get more involved in the offense when she’s on the floor in that limited role.

Defensively, the Bows performed very well against Anett Nemeth, Coastal Carolina’s opposite who was the reigning Sun Belt Offensive and Freshman Player of the Week and a player who had no fewer than 12 kills in each of her first three matches. She hit negative .077 on the first night (7 kills, 9 errors on 26 swings) and .200 for the second night (9 kills, 4 errors on 25 swings). Hawai’i held the advantage in digs both nights (Night 1, 45 to 39; Night 2, 40 to 33) and was pretty even in the block department (Night 1, 6 blocks each; Night 2, UH led 5-4).

There wasn’t a lot of tinkering with the lineup on either night, especially during the time period between sets two and three. That is usually where if a team is either ahead or behind in the match by two sets, a coach may change the lineup. That’s not to say the lineup couldn’t change for this weekend or throughout the season, but the same personnel was on the floor for the majority of both matches.

It was also very nice to see Janelle Gong, someone who redshirted last season, get her first action of her career on night 2 and proceed to end the match with a service ace. The two players whom we’ve had on the postgame show (Faith Ma‘afala and Sarah Liva) have talked about how close this team is, and that was shown in the way the players on the floor and those on the bench celebrated when Gong ended the match with that ace. They also mentioned about how they worked on blocking from week one to week. Something else they worked on was serving. UH had 23 service errors in 6 sets, most coming off a float type of serve.

Normally this would have been the third tournament in as many weeks to open the season, but the 2018 campaign so far has been anything but normal. The Outrigger Volleyball Challenge begins this week (Thursday through Sunday) and remember, due to the Rainbow Warriors having a home game on Saturday evening against Rice, volleyball will take the day off. There will still be a match at the Stan Sheriff Center on Saturday afternoon, however, with Idaho taking on Portland.

Idaho (4-2) comes in having won two straight and have won the first two Offensive Players of the Week awards in the Big Sky Conference (DeVonne Ryter and Kaela Straw). The Vandals were the preseason favorite to win their conference are currently 32nd in the nation in blocks per set (2.68).

Portland (6-0) features three players from Hawaii high schools (Shayla Hoeft-Seabury; Carey Williams-Kahuku; Kassidy Naone-Le Jardin) and two of those are in the starting rotation for the Pilots. Fans will remember Hoeft from last season when she was a starter for Nevada and the Wolf Pack came to Honolulu for a non-conference tournament last year.

San Diego State (1-5) is led by Deitre Collins-Parker, who is one of the best to have ever put on a Rainbow Wahine uniform. A two-time national champion and Player of the Year, Collins-Parker has seen a slow start for her Aztecs this season. She does have, however, a Preseason All-Mountain West selection in senior Middle Blocker Deja Harris. Harris is averaging 1.32 blocks per set while recording 3 kills per set.

Things to remember: Hawaii, Idaho and San Diego State all used to be members of the Western Athletic Conference but are all now in three difference conferences. UH has never lost to Idaho (20-0 all-time) and are 40-3 versus the Aztecs. This will be the first-ever meeting between UH and Portland.

All UH matches this week will be on ESPN 1420. Our pre-match show begins at 6:50 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, while Sunday’s broadcast will start at 4:50 p.m. Remember tha,t if you’re coming to the arena, the ticket for the UH match gets you into the first match as well.

You can also listen on our Sideline Hawai’i app, available for free at the App Store or Google Play. If you’re in the arena, you can listen our special FM frequency (106.5 FM). Our website (espn1420am.com) has a listen live player as well. You can also follow me on twitter (@tiffersHI) for all things volleyball.

#GoBows

 

28 August 2018

A week really unlike any other we’ve seen out here on the island occurred last week. As stated in last week’s blog, even with an indoor sport, you must always consider the weather conditions. To go from 4 teams with 6 matches over three days to having a tournament cancelled due to two teams pulling out as a precaution to Hurricane Lane and resulted in two teams having to sit and wait as to whether or they would even play at all.

Right around the time where Honolulu Little League won the U.S. Championship on Saturday morning with a 3-0 win over Peachtree City, Georgia, I received a call from the UH Sports Information Department saying that there would be two matches against Kansas State and asking whether or not we at ESPN 1420 would be available to broadcast the closed match some 8 hours later. I’ve been blessed to be on the call for many games over the last decade at the Stan Sheriff Center and to be behind the mic for a “closed to the public” match was a first.

With no returning All-Americans (something quite unusual for this program) and two different lineups, it wasn’t the start the program nor the fan base wanted for 2018. A third straight year of losing its season opener (the first time in program history that has happened), swept in the season opener at home for the first time since 2008 (Penn State), losing their first two matches of a season via a sweep for the first time ever. The two losses to Kansas State also mark the first time since 1993 (UC Santa Barbara) that UH has lost twice to one team at home.

Each match featured a different lineup as Coach Robyn Ah-Mow Santos looked for a group of seven that would work together. All three started the first match but two really made an impact on the weekend. Libero Tita Akiu filled in nicely for the graduated Savanah Kahakai, recording double-digit digs and wasn’t aced. For not having played volleyball since the 2015 season, Sarah Liva held her own in the middle blocker position, notching 15 kills and was in on three blocks. Right side hitter Angel Gaskin still has yet to play a full match (played in three of the six sets so far) and impacted those sets more as a blocker than as a hitter.

A modified 6-2 (six hitter-two setter) offense was used in match two and for most of it, Norene Iosia was the team’s leading attacker (career high 10 kills). One aspect from last season that carried itself into the opening weekend of 2018 was the inability to close out sets. In Set 2 on Saturday, UH had two set point opportunities and then on Sunday in Set two, UH had five set point opportunities. Both of those sets were lost in extra time and it gave Kansas State a 2-0 lead in each match.

Due to football having a home game on Saturday against Navy, it’s a short week for the Bows as they play Thursday and Friday against two-time defending Sun Belt Champion Coastal Carolina. The Chanticleers (1-2) come to Honolulu for the first time in program history and are the preseason favorite to win the East Division in the Sun Belt. For the fifth straight year, CCU opened the season on the road and last week they were at the Georgia Invitational. They lost at Georgia in 5, were swept by Illinois State before getting a 4-set win over Furman. 6’3” right side Anett Nemeth from Hungary is one of five international players on the roster and is the reigning Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Week, in addition to being named the Sun Belt Freshman of the Week.

The first knuckleball served to the 2018 schedule came before summer when two schools – Pittsburgh and Utah – announced they weren’t making the trip to Honolulu for the tournament that had been originally scheduled for week 2 of the season. That left UH having to play a second straight 2-match series to begin the season.

Things to remember: Hawai’i begins the season 0-2 for a third straight year. Now, we don’t know how or where the 2018 team will finish, UH was able to rebound in 2016 (won the Big West Conference and made the 2nd round of the NCAA Tournament) and 2017 (runners up in the BWC and made the 1st round of the NCAA Tournament). Now, of course, there is no Nikki Taylor or Annie Mitchem like there was in 2016 nor Emily Maglio in 2016 and 2017 to buoy the offense and carry the team here in 2018 so it’ll have to be someone else.

The state of Hawai’i is unlike any other. It’s unique to represent an entire state. In the past week and a half, as we were all scrambling to take the necessary precautions, staying up-to-date with information and now dealing with the aftermath (some still feeling the effects), sports, for at least a couple of hours in the day, helped to provide a bright spot and something to look forward to. Whether it was following those smiles and style of play of the Honolulu Little Leaguers to seeing the island chain on one side of the UH Football helmet, we as a state rally together.

As I said many times last week during the broadcast, my thoughts and prayers go out to those affected by the flooding and debris left by Lane, especially to those on the Windward side (from Kohala to Ka’u) of Hawai’i Island and on Maui. We cannot forget the fires on both Maui and Oahu. And now we hear of more flooding to those on the northern side (Ha’ena, Wainiha, Hanalei) of Kauai that had already been hit with devastating floods this past April.

Both matches this week (Thursday and Friday) are on ESPN 1420 and will begin at 6:50 p.m. with our prematch show. You can also listen on our Sideline Hawai’i app, available for free at the App Store or Google Play. Out website (espn1420am.com) has a listen live player as well. You can also follow me on twitter (@tiffersHI) for all things volleyball.

#GoBows #hawaiiwvb

21 August 2018

The Rainbow Wahine volleyball team is arguably the state’s most beloved team, as evidenced by the yearly attendance figures (Hawai‘i has been in the Top 2 nationwide every year since the Stan Sheriff Center opened in 1994). The program boasts a very long and deep tradition that includes undefeated conference seasons, annual berths into the NCAA Tournament (25 consecutive, 36 overall), conference and national Player of the Year Awards and four championship banners (1 AIAW and 3 NCAA). In a sport now dominated by the Power Five conferences, the Rainbow Wahine volleyball team has managed to remain relevant throughout the decades as one of a select few programs from the mid-majors.

“Cautiously optimistic” would describe the team’s 2018 outlook. There’s no preseason Top 25 ranking (the first time since the poll began in 1982). There’s no preseason No. 1 ranking within their own conference; it’s the first time since the 1995 Big West preseason poll that UH isn’t the favorite). No returning All-Americans (UH’s lone selection last season, middle blocker Emily Maglio, graduated this past spring). It sure doesn’t describe the typical UH Rainbow Wahine team entering a season.

Once in a while, this program will get a transfer, but this has to be one of the first times (if not the first) that UH has added not one…not two…but three transfers: libero Reyn “Tita” Akiu, right-side hitter Angel Gaskin and middle blocker Sarah Liva. All three are seniors, and all three are expected to be key factors for the program this season. I wouldn’t be surprised if two, if not all three, are in the starting lineup either on opening night against Gonzaga this Friday or by the end of this tournament.

Even though volleyball is an indoor sport, you still have to consider weather conditions. With Hurricane Lane approaching and its projected track, it could put a damper on this first tournament, the Hawaiian Airlines Rainbow Wahine Classic. Already, this weekend’s Rainbow Wahine Soccer Invitational has been cancelled, and you can expect more sports will see adjustments and/or cancellations later in the week. There’s way more to life than sports.

Keep following the local news and the university, as well as social media for updates throughout the week. Please be safe, have your hurricane kits and disaster plans in place and prepare your property now.

Things to remember for this week: UH began last year 0-3 (two of the losses were to ranked teams, and all three opponents made the 2017 NCAA Tournament). Also, UH went 0-5 vs ranked teams in 2017 (they are 0-10 dating back to 2015).

This first tournament (Gonzaga, Kansas State and No. 11 UCLA) isn’t as daunting as last year’s (Marquette-received votes in the 2017 preseason poll, No. 22 San Diego and No. 13 UCLA), but it provides good tests against a Power Five team (Kansas State) and an opportunity to etch an early season notch on the résumé against a ranked team (UCLA).

I’m excited to be behind the mic for my fifth season as the voice of the Rainbow Wahine and to be bringing every match to you on ESPN 1420 and NBC Sports Radio on AM 1500. You can also listen on our Sideline Hawai’i app, available for free at the App Store or Google Play. Both websites (espn1420am.com and nbcsportsradiohawaii.com) have a listen live player as well. You can also follow me on twitter (@tiffersHI) for all things volleyball.