With a 2-4 start to the season, the Rainbow Wahine volleyball team will look to redeem itself tonight against the No. 10 BYU Cougars at the Stan Sheriff Center.
The Wahine won its first two games of the season this past weekend with back-to-back sweeps over Western Carolina and South Dakota.
The ‘Bows were upended on Sunday, however, by Utah in a 3-1 set loss. But a win over BYU, one of the nation’s most physically imposing teams, will go a long way to mend the early season struggles under first-year head coach Robyn Ah Mow-Santos.
When the Rainbow Wahine play their brand of volleyball, they’re difficult to beat. But this season, their team passing hasn’t been as clean as they would like.
“There’s always room for improvement. Serving pass is something we work on daily, as well as defense. We’re going to continue to stress it,” said assistant coach Kaleo Baxter.
Outside Hitter Kalei Greeley said Wednesday morning that the biggest key to winning for the team stems from playing together while improving everyday their in the practice gym. But even with clean passing, the Wahine will have to figure out a way to get past BYU’s length.
BYU have size at the net with 11 players 6-feet or taller, including 6-foot-7 inch freshman Sara Hamson, who will look to send back UH’s volleys anytime they go above the net.
“We’re gonna work on our block defense and swinging against a big double-block here in practice this week,” Baxter said.
Baxter singled out Hamson when he talked about the Cougars’ ability to block shots at the net. In her most recent appearance for BYU against Sacramento State on September 2nd, Hamson had five block aces in her breakout performance of the season.
While it was the only match in which she played more than one set through the team’s opening six games, she is still a weapon that BYU can use over UH’s rotating middle hitters, who are at least four inches smaller than Hamson.
But even with the height disparity, the Wahine are coming to play.
UH's freshmen middle blocking duo of Sophia Howling and Skyler Williams have started their college careers with a bang, combining for 36 kills and 38 blocks. Williams has started each game for the Wahine, accumulating 28 kills and 29 blocks, while Howling has come off the bench in important moments in four matches, registering eight kills, racking up nine blocks.
The team’s leading blocker, Emily Maglio, has 33 blocks on the season to go along with 57 kills, good enough for second on the team behind McKenna Gerato.
Key to victory
The easiest way to overcome size at the net is with above average serving. Through the first six games of the season, the Wahine have committed 51 service errors, juxtaposed to 24 aces.
The Wahine don’t need to get an ace every time they serve across the net, but limiting errors and giving up easy points are mistakes that UH just can’t afford.
“We know that we’re able to play at that level, it’s just a matter of turning one point here or there in those two set games,” Baxter said.
Mow-Santos has stressed the importance of winning every point her team can, and she has shown her passion on the sidelines this season on multiple occasions when it comes to winning set points. .
The points Baxter alluded to have come at crucial times of the ‘Bows. In their four losses, the Wahine have lost six sets by three points or less. The Wahine have also taken teams to the wire this season, including two five set losses by a combined eight points.
Against a talented team in BYU, who have only surrendered 26 service errors through six matches, UH will have to clean up its serving game to stand a chance against the Cougars.
First serve against BYU is set for 7 p.m. tonight at the Stan Sheriff Center.
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