HONOLULU—The No. 14 University of Hawai’i women’s volleyball captured their 25th overall conference and ninth Big West title while head coach Dave Shoji became just the second NCAA DI women’s volleyball to hit the 1,200 win milestone as the Rainbow Wahine swept Cal Poly on Thursday night. UH downed the Mustangs, 25-11, 26-24, 25-15 with Nikki Taylor leading the charge with a match-high 15 kills at the Stan Sheriff Center. Natasha Burns and Annie Mitchemboth had five blocks apiece while Norene Iosia recorded her third straight double-double at the Stan Sheriff Center.
The win clinched the Big West’s automatic berth in the NCAA tournament for the ‘Bows. The Rainbow Wahine will make its 35th overall and 24th-straight appearance in the NCAA tourney. It is Hawai’i’s second straight-Big West Conference title. The Rainbow Wahine have claimed the Big West crown in the four of the five years since rejoining the league. UH also won its 18th-consecutive home conference game, with that streak dating back to 2014. The ‘Bows have now reeled off 25-straight sets in a row and have won their last eight matches in straight sets. But their streak of holding opponents below 20 points was snapped at 16 as Cal Poly fell in the second set, 26-24.
Shoji, who is in his 42nd year at the helm of the Rainbow Wahine program, now has a career record of 1,200-203-1. He is right behind Penn State’s Russ Rose who notched his 1,200th career win earlier this season. Rose currently has a 1,208-195 career record.
Taylor notched her third-straight and 17th double-digit kill game of the season. She also tallied a match-high five service aces to go with seven digs and four blocks—including one solo block to end the match.
Annie Mitchem and McKenna Granato both added nine kills apiece. Mitchem hit .333 with one error on 24 attacks while Granato hit a match-high .368 with two errors in 19 attacks. Mitchem also had five digs and Granato added a pair of aces, three digs and a block.
Iosia dished out 34 assists and had a team-high 14 digs for her team-leading 11th double-double of the season. Savanah Kahakai and Emma Smith both had 10 digs each, with Smith tying her career-high in digs.
The Rainbow Wahine rolled to a 25-11 win to open the match. It marked the Mustangs’ most lopsided loss in a set this season. UH opened it up on a Granato serving run in which the ‘Bows extended their lead from four points to 11 points at 16-5. Taylor led UH in the first frame with six kills and three Rianbow Wahine all had two blocks apiece.
The second set was a different story, as it was the Mustangs who took hold of the early lead and led by as many as six points at 12-6 which spurred a UH timeout. Hawai’i then started to chip away at their deficit getting a couple of points per sideout before finally catching Cal Poly at 17-17 on a Granato service ace. The Mustangs avoided one set point, but a Granato kill off a Cal Poly net violation ended the set, 26-24.
The Mustangs got off to a quick start again in Set 3, taking as big a lead as three points at 7-4. But behind the serving of Smith UH then caught and overtook the Mustangs on a 5-0 run which gave the ‘Bows a 9-7 lead from which they would never look back.
Hawai’i has one day to prepare for UC Santa Barbara on Saturday, Nov. 19 at 7:00 pm. Saturday is a Whiteout and fans are encouraged to wear white. More importantly, it is Senior Night for four Rainbow Wahine who will be making their final appearance in the Stan Sheriff Center—Tayler Higgins, Annie Mitchem, Katiana Ponce and Nikki Taylor.