HONOLULU — Brigham Young used its formidable block and a surprisingly efficient offense Saturday night to smother Hawaii’s offense and stun the Rainbow Wahine 25-21, 25-17, 25-13 in NCAA tournament second-round action.
An energetic but bewildered Stan Sheriff Center crowd of 8,495 watched the Cougars improve to 24-6 and advance to next week’s regionals in Los Angeles. The Rainbow Wahine, seeded 11th in the 64-team field, end their season at 25-5.
It was the first time UH was swept at home since losing to New Mexico State in 2008, and the fewest points scored in a home match by the Rainbow Wahine in 13 seasons — since the NCAA switched to the rally scoring system in 2001.
“We got clearly outplayed by a very very good BYU team, they were error-free, they beat us at every phase of the game,” Hawaii coach Dave Shoji said. “I just want to give credit to them, they just wouldn’t allow us to do what we wanted to do. We just couldn’t slow down their attack at all. Everybody saw it — it was clearly one-sided tonight. We practiced well, we prepared well … but those things happen in college athletics. Four seeded teams went down today, so it’s just not a given on any night.”
BYU won the first set thanks to a precise and smart attack that included only two hitting errors and a .371 percentage. The Cougars kept the score tight early on, and broke a 10-10 tie to lead 12-10 after back-to-back hitting errors by Hawaii.
Emily Hartong then notched five straight kills to put the Rainbow Wahine up 15-13, but BYU answered with an 8-3 run sparked by Alexa Gray’s three kills to surge ahead 21-18 after Gray’s kill off a UH block.
Nikki Taylor had a kill and a block to help the Rainbow Wahine close it to 21-20, but after Hartong’s kill made it 22-21, Tambra Haddock scored twice off Hawaii’s blocks and a hit attempt by Taylor sailed long to give the Cougars a 1-0 match lead.
Brigham Young roared out to a 6-1 lead in the second set, sparked by three blocks by four different players. Jade Vorster got two kills and Hartong and Taylor each scored off BYU blocks to close the gap to 12-8, but Whitney Young notched two kills and two blocks to quickly help stretch the lead to 19-9 and the Rainbow Wahine could only get as close as 23-17 after a block by Kalei Adolpho.
The Cougars then finished off the set with consecutive kills by Gray to take a stunning 2-0 match lead.
“We stuck to the game plan — our (assistant) coaches Heather (Olmstead) and Emillie (Toone Checketts) stayed up late last night and put some film together, and we had a good (pregame) practice,” Brigham Young coach Shawn Olmstead said. “The kids weren’t stressed out, they had nothing to lose. Both of our middles (Young and Kathryn LeCheminant) were really good tonight, our setter (Camry Godfrey) has got fight and heart, and our block was good which is typical.”
UH hit for only a .192 percentage in the first two sets, and were out-blocked eight to two. The Rainbow Wahine committed 16 attack errors, compared to just five for BYU, which hit .353.
“We wanted to key in good with a few of their hitters,” Olmstead said. “We told them don’t get caught up, be disciplined, don’t be moving left or right, which sometimes you start to do. But once we got our block going, I think that changed (Hawaii’s) aggressiveness. And our ball control was really good, we got our right hitters the ball.”
Gray led the Cougars with 13 kills and seven block assists, Tambre Haddock added 11 kills and 11 digs and middle blocker Young finished with seven kills and eight block assists.
The Cougars, who entered the tournament ranked sixth in the country in blocks, finished with 12 compared to six for UH.
“They have good technique, they have a very good system, they use a ‘swing block’ as we call, it,” Shoji said. “They’re very disciplined at what they do, they obviously lined up on us very well and took away some of the shots that we like to hit.”
Hartong, the Big West Conference Player of the Year, finished with a match-high 17 kills but no other Rainbow Wahine had more than seven. Hawaii also failed to serve an ace after getting 12 in Friday night’s first-round victory over Idaho State.