UH sand volleyball team advances to national semifinals

The No. 4 seed University of Hawaii sand volleyball team moved on to the semifinals of the AVCA National Championship with a pair of wins on the opening day of competition, including an upset of top-seed USC.

Making its first-ever team appearance at the nationals, UH rolled out of the gates fast with a 4-1 opening-round win over No. 5 seed Florida International. UH won in straight sets on four of five courts versus the Panthers (14-3).

The Rainbow Wahine then moved on to play No. 1 USC, which handed UH one of its three losses this year with tight 3-2 decision in Honolulu on March 19. The rematch was equally tight, but this time the Rainbow Wahine would prevail. UH's top pair of Karissa Cook and Brittany Tiegs won an epic 23-21, 22-20 decision over Kirby Burnham and Sara Hughes, while London Chow and Olivia Urban defeated Eve Ettinger and Bria Russ, 21-19, 21-19, on court No. 4. The 'Bows clinched the match on the No. 3 court when Ginger Long and Ali Longo took down Sam Hirschmann and Natasja Siljkovic, 21-19, 22-20.

UH (20-3) won its fifth straight match, while snapping USC's 21-match win streak. The 'Bows have won 16 of their last 17 dual matches.

The Rainbow Wahine are now just two wins away from a national championship and will play face No. 3 seed Florida State in the first semifinal match at 11:00 a.m. CT. The Seminoles (19-2) are making their third straight appearance in the national semis. The second semifinal will pit No. 1 USC versus No. 2 Pepperdine at 12:00 p.m. CT . The tournament format is double-elimination on the first day but will be sudden death with the final four on Saturday. The championship match is slated for 3:30 p.m. CT.