By Cindy Luis
Can you say “Swietny?”
That’s all that needs to be said about freshman Martyna Leoniak who had a career night for Hawai’i on Saturday. The Polish national was “swietny” or great in her native language when leading Hawai’i to a 25-15, 22-25, 25-15, 25-21 win over CSUN in Big West volleyball play.
Leoniak, making her fifth start, and first since the Sept. 2 loss at Utah Valley, had career-highs of 15 kills and five aces as the Rainbow Wahine (12-6, 9-1) moved into a tie with UC Santa Barbara (13-9, 9-1) for first place midway through conference play. Leoniak had no hitting errors on 23 swings, hitting ..469, and was in on four blocks.
It was the 12th consecutive win over the Matadors (4-13, 3-7) for Hawaii which improved its record over CSUN to 27-2. The Wahine played the final two sets of the match without senior hitter Brooke Van Sickle, who had played in all 19 sets this season prior to Set 3 in the Matadome.
No reason was given for Van Sickle not returning to the court after Set 2. She finished with five kills, hitting .105, with 1 block and 3 digs.
Leoniak added 10 digs for her first career double-double. Freshman setter Kate Lang turned in her fifth career double-double (43 assists-14 digs) and senior middle Sky Williams added 10 kills and was in five of the Wahine’s 13 blocks.
Sophomore hitter Riley Wagoner was one dig and one kill shy of a double-double with nine in both categories. Freshman libero Tayli Ikenaga had 14 digs as Hawai’i lost the dig battle 54-53.
For the Matadors (4-16, 3-7), senior hitter Nicole Nevarez had 13 kills and sophomore hitter Taylor Orshoff 10. Senior libero Makayla Bradford had a match-high 20 digs.
Hawai’i returns home for matches against UC Davis (7-14, 3-7) on Friday and UC Riverside (5-15, 1-9) on Sunday. These will be the first matches where fans — capped at 500 — will be allowed to attend.
Leoniak replaced sophomore Braelyn Akana in the lineup. Freshman Mia Johnson, who hadn’t played since Sept. 11 against USC, replaced Van Sickle.
The Wahine finished with a 13-6 edge in blocks. Hawai’i, which had just three blocks when being swept at UC Santa Barbara on Friday, had three stuffs when taking an 11-7 lead in Set 1.
Leoniak’s previous highs had been eight kills and two aces. She had consecutive aces in Set 1 that sandwiched a CSUN timeout, putting the Wahine up 23-13.
Although teams don’t trade sides now after sets due to COVID protocol, the momentum did swing. The Matadors broke a 20-20 tie in Set 2 to take set point at 24-21 on a kill by senior hitter Sevion Waggoner.
CSUN freshman setter Madison Klungel was called for a mishandled ball, one of six called on the two Matador setters, to give Hawai’i hope at 24-22. Sophomore middle Lauryn Anderson tied the match at 1-1 with one of her seven kills.
The Wahine ran away in a Set 3 that wasn’t as close as the final score. Hawai’i was up 6-0, 8-2 and 21-8 before CSUN found some success.
Makayla Bradford had two aces and the Matadors the momentum. CSUN closed to 21-12 and 22-14 but the Wahine used a hitting error on Orshoff and another ball-handling error by Barron for set point.
Lang two-handed it over and Hawai’i was up 2-1.
Set 4 was reminiscent of Set 2, both having 11 ties and four lead changes. It was tight through 19-19 and the Matadors got to within 21-20 and 22-21.
A hitting error by Orshoff and another lift on Barron game Hawai’i match point. Leoniak ended it after 73 minutes on her walk-off ace.