Big West Volleyball
Friday, 4 p.m.
Hawai’i (11-5, 8-0) at UC Santa Barbara (12-9, 8-1)
Series: Hawai’i leads, 43-9
Saturday, 4 p.m.
Hawai’i at CSUN (4-12, 3-6)
Series: Hawai’i leads, 26-2
Live stream: ESPN+ (Friday only)
Live stats: Hawaiiathletics.com
Robyn Ah Mow is not prone to exaggeration so it’s easy to excuse the Hawai’i volleyball coach this one time. Because it illustrates the lengths — the multiple court lengths — she’ll go to scout a player.
Ah Mow remembers vividly being at one of the many junior national tournaments and saying to then-assistant Angelica Ljungqvist, “‘OK, we got to go check out Amber.’
“There’s over 100 courts and she’s all the way over in the corner. I felt liked I walked to Kapolei from town.”
The trek obviously was worth it for Ah Mow and the Rainbow Wahine, and it continues to pay off as they head into the midway point of Big West play. Hawai’i (11-5, 8-0) closes out the first half on the road with matches at UC Santa Barbara (12-9, 8-1) on Friday and CSUN (4-12, 3-6) on Saturday.
The 6-foot-3 sophomore middle blocker from Baton Rouge, La., continues to impress with her growth and work ethic. In conference-only matches, Igiede is the Big West’s block leader (40 for a 1.43 bps average) and second in hitting percentage (.379), the latter boosted by Saturday’s .667 hitting in the sweep of Cal State Bakersfield when she had 10 kills on 15 errorless swings.
In the past two matches, Igiede had a combined 23 kills, 10 blocks and 13 digs.
“She’s a special girl,” Ah Mow said. “Seeing her play (in club), she was one of the tallest people there, one of the strongest there. Her energy was there.
“She soaks up information. To a T she just tries. That’s the thing about her. She’s into doing what she’s doing. Not a lot of players have that.”
Her athleticism and instincts for the game came in handy when she finally relented last spring to play for the Wahine beach team. It took three “asks” by Ljungqvist, doubling as the head beach coach, to convince Igiede to get out of her comfort zone.
Igiede was soon “in the zone” as she and current senior outside hitter Brooke Van Sickle teamed to go 12-1 in their final 13 matches when playing at the top two flights. The pair was named to the All-Big West first team and Igiede the Freshman of the Years.
The beach experience continues to show up on the indoor court. Igiede’s quick turnaround off a deflected block leads to digs … she doesn’t hesitate to set a ball, either bump or overhand … and serving has improved.
Currently, she’s a four-rotation player, three across the front and in the back court as long as she holds serve. Becoming a six-rotation player “would be a dream come true,” Igiede said. “It would be amazing.
“I respect for back-row players so much. They have to have really good vision, react really fast to the ball. So far, I’m doing everything I can to be in my role but, honestly, it would be an honor to play six rotations.”
“You never know,” Ah Mow said.
It’s been just over two years since Hawai’i last played in UCSB’s Thunderdome, a 25-20, 25-22, 25-19 sweep of the Gauchos on Oct. 12, 2019. Igiede had 8 kills, 2 blocks and 3 digs and “I remember Santa Barbara, it was such a good game, my jersey was soaked,” she said. “It was fun but difficult.
“It’s more excitement than nervousness this time around. I respect their game. Hopefully, they respect ours. It’s going to be a fun night.”
The Gauchos rebounded from a surprising loss Saturday at UC Davis — just the second BWC win for the Aggies — with a convincing sweep of visiting CSUN on Tuesday. Outblocked 19-6 by UC Davis on Saturday, UCSB finished with a 9-2 edge in stuffs against the Matadors on Tuesday.
“Their loss (Saturday) shouldn’t affect how we come into the game,” Igiede said. “The game play has been not to beat ourselves and take care of our side of the net.
“We have control of our destiny. We’re not waiting for someone else’s downfall or loss. Every time we step into the gym, it’s about our goal, and that’s the next game. Not the Big West (title) but the next game, the next win. It’s always going to be about how we show up.”