A matchup between two teams featuring potent attacks and stellar hitting defenses — an unstoppable force vs. an immovable object set to volleyball on both sides of the net— lived up to its billing.
Stonewalled by Pacific early and often and staring at a rare conference defeat, Hawaii and freshman middle blocker Jade Vorster came up with every big point when they needed it to capture a five-set thriller.
Vorster was brilliant with a career-high 13 kills on Saturday night and Emily Hartong led all hitters with 20 as the No. 9 Rainbow Wahine stormed back to beat the Tigers 14-25, 22-25, 25-16, 25-14, 15-11 in Honolulu.
Hartong’s kill produced match point before 7’376 fans at Stan Sheriff Center, then fittingly it was Vorster who sent the crowd home happy with a kill to seal a 65th consecutive conference victory for the ‘Bows (17-2, 10-0 Big West).
Vorster didn’t make an error on any of her 20 swings for a sparkling .625 hitting percentage, and she also had a career-high eight block assists.
Hawaii’s attack was at its best at crunch time. Following Vorster’s lead, UH didn’t make an error in the fifth set, hitting .550 as it finished at .260 for the match despite a forgettable first two sets.
Ashley Kastl produced 11 kills to equal a season high for the second consecutive match, and she and Ali Longo each had 15 digs. Hawaii’s other starting middle blocker, Kalei Adolpho, also played well with six kills and six block assists.
Kat Schulz had 15 kills, Jennifer Sanders (.423) added 14 for Pacific (16-5, 4-4) and Koala Matsuoka shined with 23 digs.
This was the teams’ first meeting as Big West foes, but Pacific is used to giving Hawaii fits. The Rainbow Wahine improved to 37-25 all-time in the series, but only UCLA has beaten them more than the Tigers have.
Over the first four sets, the old rivals took turns showing off their top-ranked offenses and defenses.
The Tigers looked every bit the team that came in with the Big West’s best hitting defense and second-best attack in the first two sets, holding UH to .065 and .125, respectfully, while making only five errors on their attack.
UH, No. 1 in hitting and No. 2 in opposing attack, rebounded after the intermission and swung for 26 kills and only six errors in the next two sets, holding the Tigers to -.029 hitting in Game 3.
Hartong and Vorster took over in the deciding set, and Pacific never got within two points after they fueled a three-point run for a 7-4 lead.
The rematch is Nov. 16 in Stockton, Calif., but first the Bows face Long Beach State and Cal Irvine next Friday and Saturday on the road.