Brooke Van Sickle’s return to the starting lineup sparked a crucial victory over Cal Poly. The redshirt junior outside hitter started and played every set of the match for the first time since her injury on Oct. 4, picking up a double-double (12 kills, 11 digs) to spark the win. The Rainbow Wahine (20-3, 10-2 Big West Conference) took the Mustangs down in four sets: 25-15, 22-25, 25-20, 25-23.
“Brooke is a great all-around player,” senior setter Norene Iosia said. “Her volleyball IQ is great. She brings a lot of help for the team. Everyone feeds off of the way she carries herself when she plays, always calm.”
“I was super stoked (to play),” Van Sickle, who missed the first Cal Poly game, said. “They’re our rivals, so I knew it would be fun, and we’d have a good crowd. I was ready to win”
In their previous meeting this season, Cal Poly swept the Wahine at Mott Athletics Center. The win at home this time around sends the Wahine back to the top of the Big West Conference standings. The team is now in a position to determine their own fate. If Hawai‘i wins out the rest of the season, it holds the tiebreaker over the Mustangs. Big West rules dictate that tie breakers are decided by the teams’ records over common opponents, from the top of the standings down. Cal Poly’s only loss before tonight came at the hands of UC Santa Barbara, who fell to Hawai‘i in both their matchups.
“This weekend just builds more confidence for us as a team,” Van Sickle said. “We know what we’re capable of doing. We see, when we play as a team, the wins that we can have.”
Including Van Sickle, three Wahine scored in double digits. Freshman outside hitter Hanna Hellvig led the team with 13 kills in the match, while senior McKenna Ross finished with 10. The outside hitter also picked up a double-double, with 10 digs. Iosia also racked up her fourth straight double-double, with 25 assists and 15 digs.
The Mustangs opened the match with a 3-0 run, before pushing their lead to 5-2. Hawai’i soon forced a momentum change, with a team block setting off a 5-0 run to claim the lead. Cal Poly never regained the lead in the set, as the Wahine used a 6-0 run to extend the lead. Four of the six points during the run came on Mustang errors. Late in the match, Hawai‘i used a 5-1 run to give themselves the first set point opportunity. Cal Poly cut into the run with a kill to make it 24-15, but Van Sickle responded with a kill of her own to put the set away. The final kill was Van Sickle’s fifth of the set, leading all scorers in the match through the frame.
Set two proved to be a much tighter contest. Cal Poly started the set with two straight kills for the early lead, but Hellvig and Ross answered with back-to-back kills of their own to tie the game. The back-and-forth set continued, leading to a 7-7 tie. At that point, the Mustangs began to methodically pull away. Trailing 19-14, the Wahine used a quick 3-0 run to pull within two, but back-to-back Cal Poly kills put the Mustangs back up by five. Cal Poly again held off a 3-0 Hawai‘i run, ending the set with a 3-2 volley. The 25-21 set win evened the match up at one set each. Van Sickle again led the team with 4 kills in the set. Mustangs outside hitter Maia Dvoracek finished with 7 second-set kills, giving her a game-leading 11 kills through two sets.
Freshman middle blocker Amber Igiede finally gave the Wahine a set-opening lead with a kill to begin scoring. Dvoracek answered with her own kill, but committed an error on her next touch. Ross tacked on another point with a kill to give Hawai‘i room to breathe. Later, while holding a slim 5-4 lead, Iosia’s kill set off three straight Cal Poly errors. The 5-0 run gave the Wahine a six point cushion that they would carry through the remainder of the set. The Mustangs briefly fought back with two straight service aces to cut the deficit to two, but Hawai‘i had no troubles finishing off Cal Poly for a 25-20 set win. Van Sickle and Iosia both crossed the double-double threshold in the set.
With the end in sight, the Rainbow Wahine opened the fourth set with a 4-0 run, including back-to-back kills from Igiede. Cal Poly cut into the lead with three straight points, but another 4-0 run extended the UH advantage to 8-3. Things were far from over however, as the Mustangs clawed back to finally tie the game at 15 all. Hawai‘i crossed the 20-point threshold first, before taking a 21-18 lead. Three straight points from Cal Poly again tied the game at 21-21, but the Wahine came out on top of a close 4-2 volley to seal the match in four sets.
“I’m happy with the (win),” head coach Robyn Ah Mow said. “The girls played great. It’s a good team win. It’s not just one person.”
The Rainbow Wahine head back to California for one last road trip. They will take on UC Davis at the Pavilion on Nov. 8 at 5 p.m. HST.