HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - For the fourth time this season, the University of Hawaii Rainbow Wahine volleyball team forced a five-set match against Baylor Friday night. But for the first time, the Wahine came out on top, winning three sets to two (18-25, 25-14, 18-25, 25-17, 16-14) in front of their home crowd at the Stan Sheriff Center.
"I think we were just sick of losing in five," said outside hitter McKenna Gerato. "We really needed to to work on starting strong and staying strong because I think if we're starting out fast, then we're fairly good. But if we don't start out and we let up and let them get on top of us, that's where we break down."
Both teams came out strong in the first set in a back-and-forth affair until the Bears jumped out to a 15-12 lead and never looked back.
Baylor continued to put the pressure on the Wahine, winning the first set 25-18.
The second set was a different story for the 'Bows as they jumped out to an early 10-4 lead. The set was never in doubt for Hawaii, who won the second frame comfortably 25-14.
In the third, the 'Bows committed several mental errors at the net, including a couple of service errors that kept the Bears within striking distance.
Baylor's middle hitters were an imposing presence at the net, deflecting UH's attacks with regularity totalling nine blocks for the match, led by Camryn Freiberg who accumulated four blocks.
Baylor put together a few strong rallies to lead 21-14 before two Natasha Burns spikes got UH back within five. Unfortunately for the Wahine, they had already fallen too far behind in the frame to make any sort of comeback, losing the third set 25-18.
Service errors continued to plague the Wahine in the fourth set and the Bears, who trailed early in the fourth, 7-2, tried to rally back. But the 'Bows were able to hold off the Bears' attack, 25-17, to force a fifth set for the second night in a row.
The fifth set hasn't been kind to the Wahine this season, but they were able to inch out the Bears in a tightly-contested final frame, 16-14 to pick up their third win of the season and their first win over an NCAA Tournament caliber team this year.
"We finally broke the curse. That's what we did," said Wahine head coach Mow-Santos.
Mow-Santos said after the game that these five-set matches are making this team better, win or lose.
"Growth is the word," she said. "That's the kind of team, and I told them in the locker room, that's the kind of team I want to be on, I want to coach. It's not just one or two really good players, I want everybody to contribute. No matter you're on the bench or you're starting."
Gerato racked up a match-high 22 kills, four more than the second-closest player, teammate Emily Maglio, who had 18 kills. Setter Norene Iosia had an impressive 63 assists for the Wahine, 11 more than Baylor's Hannah Lockin, who dished out 52 assists.
The Wahine will have to rest up after two consecutive nights of five set matches in anticipation for Saturday night's matchup against the Nevada Wolfpack. First serve is set for 7 p.m. at the Stan Sheriff Center.