Hawaii women’s volleyball: Wahine serve up a winner against UCLA

The Rainbow Wahine celebrated a point in their sweep over UCLA on Saturday. / Photo by Cindy Ellen Russell, Star-Advertiser

Float serves that drifted like wounded ducks, line-drive serves that cleared the net by inches, topspin serves that arced violently to the Taraflex floor.

And as often as anything else, serves flying right at UCLA’s big gun Mac May.


It made for an effective potpourri, a winning brew, for the Hawaii women’s volleyball team in a 25-15, 25-22, 25-23 sweep of rival UCLA on Saturday night at the Stan Sheriff Center. No. 18 UH (9-0) did it in front of a turnstile crowd of 7,595, the largest to take in a Rainbow Wahine match at the Sheriff since over 8,000 appeared for Cal State Northridge on senior night 2013.

Minutes after receiving happy birthday wishes from the team, UH staff and the crowd, coach Robyn Ah Mow was direct about the strategy.

“Fourteen,” she said of May’s number. “We’re going to serve her. All game.”

The 6-foot-3 May was an All-Pac-12 first-teamer last season as a sophomore. She received 16 UH serves, behind only libero Kelli Barry and fellow hitter Savvy Simo. She was limited to seven kills on 32 swings (.125).

The final service stats were not overwhelming in UH’s favor. Five aces to three for the Bruins, and seven errors to UCLA’s nine. The Wahine actually performed better in that respect the night before, with seven aces against four errors against Utah Valley.

But there was no question that UCLA was off balance and out of system much of the night because of it. The Bruins hit .160 to UH’s .268.

“I don’t know,” Ah Mow said after a moment’s thought to a question of whether it was one of the team’s better-served games this season. “I think we served in the right place, tough or not, OK, but in the right place and took them out of system more than not. And hoping and crossing our fingers that our middle blockers paid attention and followed directions, drop left, drop right.”

UH trailed late in Set 3 but came back to sweep an opponent for the second time this season thanks in part to one of tournament MVP Hanna Hellvig’s two aces on the night. That made it 23-22, UH’s first lead in the frame since 17-16.

“I thought Hawaii served the ball really well tonight. I thought they were really prepared for what we were going to do,” said UCLA assistant coach Megan Pendergast in response to a question about what swung the outcome. “They put a ton of pressure on us from the service line. I think we recovered really nicely and showed some fight; we’ve got a really, really young team. A lot of new faces out there and we’re still learning. We got better as we went, but I thought the Rainbow Wahine did a really nice job tonight from the service line, for sure.”

Setter Bailey Choy had two aces and Brooke Van Sickle one.

“We were serving good. We had a plan of where to serve, and what players to serve and who to not serve, so I think we (did) as good as we could and we were steady serving,” Hellvig said.


  1. H-Man September 15, 2019 1:42 pm

    Thank you for the article. I would never have known that was the strategy. And looks like it worked.

  2. darkfire35 September 15, 2019 2:06 pm

    Great article Brian! I think the other factor I saw last night at the SSC was that although the Wahine “officially” had 8 blocks, they were blocking a lot of balls that caused UCLA to do pushes and tips on the next hit. The Wahine were also having a lot of touches that enabled the rest of the team to help return and set up the next kill. Often times, it looked like UCLA’s front line didn’t know which way to go enabling one on ones for McKenna Ross. They are soooo scary good without Jolie on the floor…imagine what they could be like when she’s well again.
    I also had a chance to talk to Kaleo Baxter during the autograph session and asked him if he was surprised at how good they were without Jolie. He responded as a matter of factly,”No! They’re a good bunch of girls that are really working well with each other.” GO BOWS!

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