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Rainbow Wahine sweep San Diego, advance to Sweet 16

The Maui News

The Rainbow Wahine better get their parkas ready.

The 12th-seeded University of Hawaii women’s volleyball team punched its ticket to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday night with a sweep of San Diego at the Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu.

“That was a good game, San Diego is a great team and they fought hard,” UH coach Robyn Ah Mow said. “My girls came out and they were on it, everything from blocking to serving, passing and everything. Hats off to them.”

The Rainbow Wahine now head to Madison, Wis., to face fifth-seeded Nebraska on Friday at 11:30 a.m. HST — the match will be streamed online on ESPN3. The winner will then take on either host Wisconsin, the No. 4 seed, or No. 13 Texas A&M in the regional final Saturday at 1 p.m. HST — that match will be televised on ESPNU.

UH (26-3) advanced to the regionals for the first time since 2015 by dispatching San Diego 25-23, 25-21, 25-21 in a rematch of the teams’ first match of the season — the Rainbow Wahine won that one too, but in a five-setter.

While it was a sweep, Saturday’s match was close, especially early on.

UH jumped out to a 17-12 lead in the first set before the Toreros clawed their way back to 19-18 on a kill by Katie Lukes. A kill by Amber Igiede and block by Igiede and Hanna Hellvig gave UH a three-point cushion before San Diego again closed within a point, at 24-23, but Hellvig closed it out with her fifth kill of the set.

The Rainbow Wahine led throughout most of the second set, though their lead never reached more than four, and like in the first San Diego rallied to tie it up at 16-all. It was tied again at 17-17 when UH went on a 4-0 run to take control.

In the third, Hawaii took the lead for good on Bailey Choy’s ace that made it 15-14. The Rainbow Wahine’s lead grew to as many as three points before the match ended on a Hellvig kill aided by a San Diego net violation.

Hellvig finished with 12 kills and four blocks to lead UH. McKenna Ross added 10 kills, six digs and three blocks, Igiede had nine kills, Brooke Van Sickle had seven kills and five digs, Norene Iosia had 24 assists, 12 digs and three kills, Choy had 19 assists and three aces, and Rika Okino had 20 digs and five assists.

Lukes and Grace Frohling each had 10 kills to lead the Toreros (25-6).