HONOLULU, Hawai'i - After Hawai'i and Cal State Northridge staged a nearly three hour, five-set battle in The Matadome one month ago, the 12th-ranked Rainbow Wahine made quick work of the Matadors Saturday at the Stan Sheriff Center winning 25-19, 25-20, 25-21 in a key Big West match.
The race for the Big West regular season crown grew even closer as CSUN dropped to 12-3 in conference play and 22-6 overall. Hawai'i improves to 11-3 in the Big West (22-4 overall) while UC Santa Barbara (12-2) slipped into first place by one-half game after sweeping UC Riverside on Saturday. The Matadors will close the regular season at UC Davis next Saturday (Nov. 30).
In dropping two straight matches for just the second time this season, the Matadors were stymied on offense hitting just .152 (34-17-112) as a team. The Rainbow Wahine wound up hitting .252 (48-16-127) and had at least 15 kills in each of the three sets. CSUN managed 13 kills in set two which turned out to be its high for the match.
Natalie Allen had a solid match for the Matadors as the junior put down a team-high 11 kills while hitting .429 on 21 attacks. Allen also had 10 digs for her team-leading 13th double-double of the season. Libero Kelcie Randazzo scooped up a match-high 21 digs in the loss.
Playing in front of family and friends, senior Mahina Haina added eight kills (.156) but CSUN's other big guns Casey Hinger and Cieana Stinson combined for just 10 kills. Hinger hit .095 on 21 swings but did have nine digs, four blocks and one ace. Stinson hit -.050 on 20 attacks while setter Sydney Gedryn matched Hinger with four blocks and also had 28 assists and three digs.
The Matadors looked good early on as they scored the first two points of set one and did not surrender the lead until a Nikki Taylor kill gave Hawai'i a 6-5 lead. The UH lead swelled to three (10-7) when Hinger's attack went long. The Matadors stayed within two at 14-12 on Hinger's ace but back-to-back Rainbow Wahine points boosted the lead back to four.
Still trailing by four at 18-14, CSUN watches as Hawai'i claimed five of the next seven points to open up its largest lead 23-16. The lead was also seven at 24-17, when the Matadors saved two set points following a Hinger kill and a Hinger-San Kaul block but Tai Manu-Olevao's kill ended the set 25-19.
Hawai'i won three of the first four points in set two and never trailed. A Stinson kill pulled CSUN within 8-6 which was as close as the Matadors would get until late in the frame. Trailing 21-16, the Matadors engineered a 3-0 run to cut the lead to two once again. Hinger's service error ended the run but Haina's kill kept CSUN close at 22-20. But that turned out to be the Matadors' final point as Hawai'i rallied for the final three points of the 25-20 win.
In a must-win set three, the Matadors hit just .100 as a team but found themselves right in the thick of the tightest set of the match. The set was knotted 12 times and CSUN led several times, the largest (16-14) following an Alia Casino ace. Kills from Allen (19-17) and Hinger (20-18) also kept the Matadors in front by two before a 6-0 UH run proved decisive as the Rainbow Wahine set themselves up with match point at 24-20. Hinger's final kill saved one match point but the junior's ensuing serve found the net and Hawai'i handed CSUN its third straight set loss this season.
Taylor led the Rainbow Wahine with a match-high 15 kills (.565) while Manu-Olevao added 11 (.269). The Matadors did manage to neutralize UH's leading hitter Emily Hartong who wound up with eight kills but hit just .132.
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