The Stan Sheriff Center worked its indescribable magic Sunday night. Facing seemingly impossible odds, the University of Hawai‘i women’s volleyball team rallied from two sets down to complete the reverse sweep over UC Davis. On the eve of its 25th birthday, the Stan Sheriff Center and its raucous crowd provided the spark the Rainbow Wahine (16-3, 6-2 BWC) needed to steal the third and fourth sets. With the arena shaking throughout, the ‘Bows persevered in a tightly contested fifth set to claim the victory.
"The crowd always helps," redshirt junior outside hitter Brooke Van Sickle said. "I've never played in a better atmosphere in my volleyball career. I think the crowd gives us (extra) points."
Following the match, the crowd sang “Happy Birthday” to the arena. In a move mirroring the very first game at the Stan Sheriff Center, a cake was brought out on the court. Just like head coach Robyn Ah Mow had done to then-coach Dave Shoji, the team tried but failed to smear cake on their coach. Ah Mow prevailed once again, smearing cake on senior setter Norene Iosia.
"It was all in good fun," Ah Mow said of the cake smearing. "I had my white (clothes) on. Don't dirty the white stuff. If I was wearing black, then go for broke."
Iosia nearly racked up a triple-double in the match, with 23 assists, 9 kills and 9 digs. Despite some early troubles, freshman outside hitter Hanna Hellvig finished with a team-leading 16 kills. She also came close to a double-double with 9 digs. Two other Wahine players finished in double digits for kills. Senior outside hitter McKenna Ross and junior middle blocker Skyler Williams finished with 10 kills each.
After missing four games to injury, Van Sickle made her long-awaited return to the court. With things looking dire after two sets, the redshirt junior entered the game and provided the ‘Bows with an immediate spark. Van Sickle finished with 7 kills and 8 digs in the winning effort.
"I'm really excited to be back," Van Sickle said. "Sitting out is obviously not fun. I'm glad I could help tonight."
The first Wahine match at the Stan Sheriff Center in 1994 ended with a service ace. The 25th anniversary game opened in much the same way. This time, however, it was the other side who benefited, as the Aggie service ace gave them the first lead of the game. The score came as part of a 4-2 UC Davis run to start the game. A 4-1 run later pushed the lead to 8-3. Hawai‘i came back to tie the game at 8 points each with five consecutive scores, and went on to take the lead their first lead of the game with a 3-2 rally. Holding a slim 12-11 lead later in the set, the Wahine fell victim to a 5-1 UC Davis run, giving the Aggies a lead they would not relinquish for the remainder of the set. The ‘Bows made a late rally, but UC Davis finished with their own hands as an Aggie kill ended the set 25-22.
Unexpectedly down 1-0 early, the Wahine looked to turn the game around. Two straight Aggie errors gave the ‘Bows a 2-0 lead to start the set. Hawai’i returned the favor as a McKenna Ross service error opened the scoring for UC Davis. Later in the set, Hellvig committed two straight attack errors, leading to her benching. Fellow freshman Riley Wagoner replaced her in the lineup. Wagoner provided a brief spark in her relief appearance, putting down 2 kills on 3 attempts. A rejuvenated Hanna Hellvig later returned to the game, putting down 3 kills the rest of the way. However, their efforts weren’t enough, as the Aggies ran out to a 24-18 lead. With their backs to the wall, the Wahine put down three straight kills to pull within 3 points. The rally ultimately fell short, as a service error from senior setter Bailey Choy ended the set 25-21
Faced with a possible sweep, the Wahine had to swing the momentum. Head coach Robyn Ah Mow decided to make a personnel change. With the game hanging in the balance, Brooke Van Sickle made her long-awaited return to the court. After missing four games with an injury, Van Sickle made an immediate impact in her return, putting down 4 kills in the set. Taking advantage of the momentum, the ‘Bows led the set wire-to-wire in a 25-22 victory to keep the game alive.
Keen not to waste their second chance, the Wahine opened the fourth set with a 5-1 run to take the early lead. Later in the set, the Hawai’i blitzed UC Davis with six consecutive points, led by a 5-service scoring run from Van Sickle. The run included a service ace, her first of the match. The Aggies rebounded with a 5-1 run to cut the deficit down to 22-15, but the 3-2 rally that followed ended in the ‘Bows favor. The 25-17 set win forced a decisive set five.
UC Davis claimed the first two points of the crucial set five to take the all-important early set lead. The Wahine weren’t having it however, taking off on a 6-1 run to regain control. The two teams battled late into the set, trading leads until the very end. With the score tied at 12 apiece, the Wahine put down two straight kills, before an Aggies error officially wrapped up the match. With the 15-12 set five win, the ‘Bows came all the way back to take down UC Davis.
The Rainbow Wahine move to 16-3 on the season and 6-2 in conference play. The win kept the ‘Bows close to conference leader Cal Poly, who lost to UCSB earlier this weekend. Hawai‘i heads back out on the road for a two-game California trip against Cal State Fullerton and UC Irvine.
The Wahine head to Fullerton, Calif. to take on the Titans at Titan Gym on Oct. 25 at 4 p.m. HST.