Hawaii women’s volleyball: Iosia still a hit when it counts

Norene Iosia has been a versatile player throughout her UH career. She put down a point against Cal State Fullerton on Sept. 28, 2018. / Star-Advertiser file photo by Andrew Lee

Hawaii needed every weapon at its disposal to come back to defeat last-place Cal State Fullerton in five sets on Saturday night.

One of those required weapons was senior setter Norene Iosia, who broke out her old role as an all-around threat — hitting to go with her veteran setting, tough serving and passing — in a time of desperation for the reeling Rainbow Wahine.

Starting in the third set, coach Robyn Ah Mow made a couple of moves: she went away from the existing offense for the first time this season by having Iosia play the front row with Bailey Choy setting in a modified 6-2; and she put freshman Braelyn Akana at right-side hitter.

Ah Mow called Iosia “the MVP” after the 22-25, 20-25, 25-23, 25-15, 15-12 reverse sweep of the Titans. She was one kill away from a triple-double — nine kills, 26 assists and 17 digs — in helping UH improve to 13-2 overall and 3-1 in the Big West.

“We gave Norene a new role. A role that she was familiar with from the previous year, but she hadn’t hit the ball in practice, or blocked the entire year,” assistant coach Kaleo Baxter said on Tuesday. “But we knew what she was going to be able to do in that role, and she really stepped up for us.”

Whether that move will reappear in this week’s high-stakes matches — or down the line — remains to be seen.

UH takes on defending champ Cal Poly (5-0) at Mott Gym on Friday and up-and-coming UC Santa Barbara (5-0) at the Thunderdome on Saturday. The statuses of injured hitters Jolie Rasmussen and Brooke Van Sickle are still up in the air, making it an open question whether the 5-foot-11 Iosia will reprise the more offensive role that she put to good effect previously in her career.

To that question on Tuesday, before the team departed for the road, Iosia gave a short laugh and said, “I honestly do not know, really, the coaches are so unpredictable. But if it happens, I’m more than glad to do it. Whatever helps us win, and, yeah.”

Iosia, a three-time All-Big West first-teamer, had 212 kills her junior season and five triple-doubles in a true utility role. After eight aces last weekend, she’s now ninth on the UH career serving list with 115. Nikki Taylor (2013-16) is next at 117.


Our volleyball beat writer Cindy Luis found a couple of external feature stories on the Rainbow Wahine that you should check out.


  1. roygbivs October 9, 2019 5:33 pm

    Yes!! Fo’shuwa for us to have a chance to win these two games, Norene will have to hit if J.R. and B.V.S. cannot go. Mayb use T. W. as a OH really could use some height on the outside.
    This swing will make or break our season.

  2. Jon October 9, 2019 6:39 pm

    I hope she will hit in place of Wagoner. I like Wagoner, she just needs to mature and get stronger. I do not believe this team will go far if Norene is not hitting. She is the glue of the team and she NEEDS to be in there all 6 rotations. I don’t think it’s wise having your floor captain in for just 3 rotations… disturbing Robyn hasn’t done this earlier.

  3. H-Man October 9, 2019 6:58 pm

    I also think Braelyn Akana should be given a look at left-side hitter. That’s if Jolie and/or Brooke aren’t ready to go.

  4. Cindy Luis October 9, 2019 7:06 pm

    3 mahalo Brian for this bonus coverage
    3 Have mentioned previously that They were looking ar Akana as An OH but wanted to do It in Spring when They had more Time to Develop her
    But the injuries Have moved Up that Time table

  5. darkfire35 October 9, 2019 8:01 pm

    Much mahalos Brian for all the bonus coverage you’ve done. It certainly is very nice to get more eyes on a special team that could be truly NCAA tournament winners! GO BOWS!!!

  6. warriorwahine October 10, 2019 2:29 am

    need also for uh to correspond a protest to big west about the irvine match. whatever uci did a protest and caused a replay of match versus long beach in 2016, uh should do the same and see to prompting big west to replay set 5 at score 1-1 because of that unofficial and illegal replay the point, delay of game, 2nd delay of game and any rotation violations caused by uci.

  7. Aiea 7 October 10, 2019 9:18 am

    they should go back to use a fulltime libero. okino and kyra are excellent liberos. they will help stabilize the serve-receive and dig many balls and they are very good servers, especially okino with her bump serves. if you cannot pass the serve well to the setter, she will have difficult time to set to the hitters. this is where many of the errors take place. I like Norene being in their for 6 rotations as setter and hitter. but I fear next year, no setter. other than choi and Norene their is not backup setter.

  8. Kahuna October 10, 2019 10:54 am

    #7….bump serves? I’m not sure that is even allowed. Have you seen Rika when she was given the chance to pass? She was adequate but not great. We don’t have a Tita Akiu on the team so just having a Libero in the lineup just for the heck of it is not productive.

    Robyn and coaches obviously sat down and figured out the plus and minus of having her or not having her and they determined that having four hitters(two with Libero type skills in Brooke Van Sickle and Riley Wagoner) might be more productive than having Okina in full time.

    Rika can still come in a spell someone who is struggling. We got this this point(#19 ranked) with this lineup. Why mess with it?

    If we go with that modified 6-2, Rika will play a bigger role but I don’t think she is good enough to be in there full time.

  9. Aiea 7 October 10, 2019 2:57 pm

    #8, sorry I meant bump set not serve. how many top 25 teams do not have a full-time libero or defensive player but uses 5 attackers or hitters? I believe what the coaches are doing are unprecedented and have been lucky that they have been somewhat successful in their strategy. but it won’t last, and this will be tested this weekend with cal poly and santa Barbara. if they lose these two games, it is likely they won’t win the big west nor will garner an at large bid to the NCAA. Maybe the coaches do not have confidence in Rika or Kyra and fell it is more important to have 5 attackers. but the name of the game is passing and serving. the passing with the 5 attackers have not been great, just marginal and now with Brooke sidelined don’t believe her replacement Westerberg or akana are better passers than rika or kyra. But nonetheless whether you have confidence in your libero, you must develop her. a couple on nights ago, iolani vs Kam, their two liberos were outstanding. how did they become so good, by playing fulltime, they were not born great liberos.

  10. nomu1001 October 10, 2019 11:17 pm

    Wagoner might want to go a little wider and not so deep on her attacks, she could see the court better. Likely results are less tips and better swings at the ball. One other observation, Ross sometimes needs to be in better position playing defense. Times when the backrow is slow getting back to position, moving when they should be locking in, and not focusing enough on being in position relative to what middle and oh doing at net. Judt my worthless two pennies.

  11. nomu1001 October 10, 2019 11:53 pm

    Better focus, and reading hitters better. Better communication always a good thing.

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