MINNEAPOLIS, Minn.—The No. 12 University of Hawai'i women's volleyball team (23-6) fell to No. 1/No. 2-seeded Minnesota in the NCAA tournament's second round, 25-17, 25-17, 25-19. Leading the Rainbow Wahine were Annie Mitchem, who tied her career-high with 13 kills, and McKenna Granato, who added 11 kills. Libero Savanah Kahakai tallied a team-high 17 digs and passed the 1,000 career dig mark in the loss on Saturday night at the Sports Pavilion in Minneapolis, Minn.
At the very start of the match however, with UH trailing 1-2 in the first set, Hawai'i was dealt a tough blow as senior Nikki Taylor went down with an injury. She landed on a Minnesota player's foot coming down from a block and was helped off the court after medical personnel attended to her. She returned on crutches in the middle of the second set and did not return to the match. Taylor finished her standout career ranked No. 12 in UH history with 1,377 career kills and No. 8 with 117 service aces. In her four years, she amassed 665 digs, 373 blocks, and 1,694.5 career points.
The Rainbow Wahine battled on without their floor captain and fought as hard as they could but were unable to come up with enough firepower to overcome the Golden Gophers. It was just the second time this season that Hawai'i was swept.
Kahakai became just the 14th player in UH history to record over 1,000 digs. Currently, she has 1,001 career digs to end her junior year. She lead the team with 416 digs this season. The last Rainbow Wahine to hit the 1,000 dig mark was Kanani Danielson (2008-11) who finished her career with 1,233 digs.
Mitchem played in her final game as a Rainbow Wahine. She not only recorded a career-high in kills, but also attempts with 43. It was the 11th time this year that Mitchem put down double-digits in kills. She also added five digs and one block in the match. Mitchem ends her two-year Hawai'i career with 249 kills and 91 blocks.
Granato recorded her 12th double-digit kill game of the year. She added an assist, a service ace and two digs in the match.
Setter Norene Iosia posted 27 assists and had four kills with eight digs. She finishes her rookie season with 971 assists, just 29 shy of hitting the 1,000 milestone.
Minnesota (27-4) ended Hawai'i's season in the NCAA tournament for the second straight year. Last season, the Golden Gophers held off the 'Bows in four sets at the Des Moines Regional Final. Minnesota's balanced offensive attack was led by Sarah Wilhite who had 13 kills while Molly Lohman had a match-high four blocks. Minnesota extended the longest active home-winning streak in the country to 34. The haven't loss a home match in the last two seasons, improving to 15-0 at the Sports Pavilion this year.
Hawai'i had its 11 match-win streak snapped in the loss. UH played all 15 players suited up in the loss. It marked the final match for four Rainbow Wahine seniors—Tayler Higgins, Katiana Ponce, Mitchem and Taylor.