HONOLULU—The University of Hawai'i women's volleyball team (1-2, 0-0 Big West) had the chips stacked against them early—down 2-0 in sets; down 8-2 in the fifth set; and down two All-American starters. But the 'Bows, led by some of their young guns, sparked a momentum shift in the third set and rode the wave to a thrilling five-set victory over Arizona (0-3, 0-0 PAC-12), 15-25, 23-25, 25-18, 25-19, 15-13. Hawai'i's McKenna Granato led the charge, posting a career-high 33 kills while Savanah Kahakai once again anchored the back row with her third 20+ kill match of the season on Sunday at the Stan Sheriff Center. The match concluded the three-day Chevron Rainbow Wahine Invitational.
Granato, a sophomore outside hitter, put the team on her shoulders while hitting an efficient career-high .459 hitting percentage burying 33 kills with just five errors in 61 attacks. Her 33 kills is the most since Emily Hartong had 33 against Long Beach State on Oct. 26, 2012. Granato also had eight digs in the match.
Kahakai tied her career-high for the second time in the young season, flying around the back line for 23 digs to lead the 'Bows both emotionally and defensively. She added two service aces and three assists as well.
But coming in to spark a rally for the ages were converted middle hitter sophomore Casey Castillo and freshman McKenna Ross. In all, five of UH's six freshman and both of the 'Bows' sophomores all played pivotal roles in the important win. After struggling to find their footing in the first set and losing 15-25, Castillo made her first appearance in the match starting the second set. She proved to be a solid force in the middle and ended the match with a career-highs of six kills and two blocks (one solo). Ross, a rookie who originally joined the squad as a defensive specialist, then entered the game in the third set and injected an instant lift to the team and their efforts. She sparked the team and the crowd tallying seven kills with just one error in three sets played. In the battle of the McKenna's (Arizona also had two McKenna's—McKenna Painton and Makenna Martin), UH's pair of Granato and Ross combined for 40 kills and just six errors in 75 swings for a .533 hitting percentage. The 40 kills also accounted for 60% of Hawai'i's kills as the 'Bows had a total of 67 as a team.
In the second set, Hawai'i jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead behind Iosia serving. She dealt the Wildcats three straight aces bookended by a Granato kill and an Arizona attack error. The Wildcats called timeout and then proceeded to go on a 9-1 run to overtake UH on the scoreboard 11-9. From there, UA pulled out to a four point lead and held off the Rainbow Wahine to capture the second set 25-23.
The third set saw the entrance of Ross into the starting lineup and a seven point run early gave UH a 10-5 lead with Kahakai behind the service line. Hawai'i pulled away and led by as many as six points(23-17) late, eventually winning 25-18. Castillo got the set-winning point on a quick set in the middle from Iosia.
In the fourth, the early going was tight, with nine ties. But after a clutch kill by rookie Kirsten Sibley and a Arizona timeout, Clare-Marie Anderson served four straight-points with a kill each by Granato and Emily Maglio and then a pair of UA hitting errors which gave Hawai'i a 20-15 lead from which Arizona could not recover from. UH won the fourth set, 25-19.
Arizona, however, started the fourth set on a roll with an 8-2 lead at the switchover. Undeterred and unfazed, Hawai'i then began their battle back. Once again, behind the serving of Kahakai, UH went on a 5-0 run and eventually tied it at 10-10. UH finally was able to take their first lead of the set on a Granato kill at 13-12 and Hawai'i held off the Wildcats for a 15-13 win in five sets.
Similar to the last time UH lost their first two matches of the season was in 2005 to Nebraska (Big 12) and Penn State (Big Ten). Their next match was a win over a PAC-12 team, USC. This year, UH fell to Wisconsin (Big Ten) and Kansas State (Big 12) and then knocked off PAC-12's Arizona.
Up next for the 'Bows is the Hawaiian Airlines Volleyball Classic from Sept. 1-3. The tournament features Missouri State, Pacific and No. 12 UCLA.