BELLINGHAM, Wash. – Twenty-four hours after pulling off the biggest upset in the 2022 NCAA Division II Tournament, what could the eighth-seeded West Region Chaminade University women’s volleyball team do for an encore?
How about another dub over a higher seeded opponent.
On Friday, the Silverswords let it be known that their win over top-seeded and fourth-ranked Alaska Anchorage was no fluke, sweeping past the No. 4 seed and 20th-ranked Cal Poly Pomona, 29-27, 25-17, 25-21, in the West Region semifinal at WECO Court at Carver Gymnasium.
Sasha Colombo (Milan, Italy/Colorado State/Liceo Scientifico Giordano Bruno HS) put down a match-high 11 kills and had four blocks for the Silverswords (26-7), who advanced to the region final for the first time in program history.
Sophie Schilling (Berlin, Germany/Alaska/Schul- and Leistungsportszentrum Berlin HS) added nine kills and did not commit a hitting error en-route to a .643 attack percentage while Lataisia Saulala (Morgan Hill, Calif./Oakwood) and Ajack Malual (Trento, Italy/Tambosi ETI) each added eight with Saulala getting five blocks.
Chaminade (25-7), which has won 23 of its last 24 matches dating back to Sept. 3 and on a current 10-match winning streak, will get third-seeded and CCAA regular season champion Cal State Los Angeles on Saturday at 5 p.m. Hawai’i time after the Golden Eagles swept Central Washington in the other semifinal.
It will be a rematch from the Sept. 2 encounter when the Golden Eagles took straight sets from the ‘Swords in the Cal State LA Invitational.
Pacific West Conference Player and Setter of the Year Alexia Byrnes (Chicago/Youngstown State/Saint Francis HS) had 22 assists and 10 digs while Alecza Abary (Fontana, Calif./Rancho Cucamonga) added 13 assists.
Although Greta Corti (Varese, Italy/Univ. of San Francisco/Alessandro Manzoni Liceo HS) was held to just five kills, the redshirt sophomore outside hitter had a team-high 17 digs while Nanna Inoue (Kula, Maui, Hawai’i/Tyler JC/King Kekaulike HS) picked up 12.
Daisy Duke, the CCAA Player of the Year, had a team-high nine kills for Cal Poly Pomona, the CCAA tournament champions, which saw its season end at 24-6.
Like they did Thursday against Alaska Anchorage, the Silverswords hammered down the attack against the Broncos, putting down 48 kills, 42 assisted and hitting at a .290 clip. They also held CPP to 32 kills and a .097 attach percentage.
The match featured long rallies, resulting in 64 digs for the ‘Swords, their second highest in a three-set match this season, while Pomona had 58.
“Kudos to Pomona, they have some really good pieces,” head coach Kahala Kabalis Hoke said. “They put together scrappy defense and they did a lot to put the pressure on us and I’m glad some things went our way over them.”
After being out-blocked 4-to-2 in the first set, the ‘Swords adjusted and had five blocks in the final two sets while surrendering just one during the same stretch.
“(Pomona’s) blocking was amazing,” Malual said. “But I need to give a shout-out to (Abary). She put me in a good spot so I was able to go on the line and get the angles so that was great.”
The first set was relatively close before Cal Poly Pomona scored six straight, opening a 20-14 lead and seemed poised to take the first set. But the ‘Swords roared back, forcing four Broncos hitting errors while Malual, Brooklen Pe’a (Woods Cross, Utah/Youngstown State/Bountiful HS) and Corti each put down kills which tied it at 21.
Cal Poly Pomona countered with three of their own to crawl back to within 24-21. Chaminade staved off three CPP set points thanks to Saulala with a block and kill while Pe’a put down a kill to tie it at 24. From there, each team had two cracks at set point and at 27-all, Malual put down consecutive kills to help the Silverswords swipe the first set.
Like they did continuously in Thursday’s match against Alaska Anchorage, the Silverswords jumped ahead in the Set 2, taking a 10-5 edge thanks to a 6-0 run. The Broncos would get the next three points but Chaminade answered on a 6-1 surge thanks to aces by Corti and Inoue while Saulala, Colombo and Schilling each had kills to increase their lead to 16-9. The ‘Swords did not surrender a natural point for the rest of the set as they convincingly took a two-set lead.
With all the momentum on their side, Chaminade bolted out to a 6-0 lead in the third set and led by as many as seven. With its season on the brink, CPP managed to chip away and got to within 23-21. However Corti slammed down her final kill, then at aloha ball, Pe’a and Saulala blocked Duke’s spike to send the ‘Swords into a celebration huddle for the second time in as many days.
“Just a teensy bit,” Kabalis Hoke said when asked on how long they will savoir their second straight victory in in the elimination tournament. “We really want to focus on making everyone proud and bringing home our first regional championship.”