No ‘I’ in team but there are in Igiede, Ikenaga and tItle


By Cindy Luis

There may be no “I” in team but there were two “I’s” that came up big for Hawai’i Friday night as in Igiede and Ikenaga.

Sophomore middle Amber Igiede put down a match-high 16 kills and freshman libero Tayli Ikenaga had a match-high 22 digs as the Rainbow Wahine successfully defended their Big West title with a 23-25 25-12, 25-19, 25-12 win over CSUN at SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center.

Hawai’i (21-6, 18-1) also had three players turn in double-doubles when clinching the league’s automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament. Senior hitter Brooke Van Sickle added 14 kills with just one error and 12 digs: sophomore hitter Riley Wagoner had 11 kills with 12 digs, and freshman setter Kate Lang 43 assists and 11 digs over the 2 hours and 3 minutes.

It was the 300th victory in PCAA/Big West play in 20 seasons, as well as the 10th title in the conference for Hawai’i. The Wahine also won 15 titles in 19 seasons in the Western Athletic Conference (1996-2011). 

This will be the 39th postseason appearance for Hawai’i since the program began in 1974. The Wahine have only missed out twice, the 1992 injury-plagued season when they went 15-12 and the tournament was 32 teams, and last year when the Big West opted out of NCAA play due to COVID concerns.

Hawai’i, running its winning streak to 10, closes out the regular season Saturday against UC Santa Barbara (20-11, 16-3). The Gauchos handed the Wahine their lone conference loss on Oct. 22, a 3-0 sweep at the Thunderdome. 

CSUN (7-23, 6-14) finishes 10th in the 11-team conference. The Matadors got eight kills from Nicole Nevarez and 20 digs from libero Makayla Bradford. 

“I’m happy, that’s all I’ve got to say,” Hawai’i coach Robyn Ah Mow said. “This is not us (the coaches). It’s them (the players). I told them in the locker room, ‘Thank you guys for bringing the Big West championship here.’

“People have been asking me where I think we’re going to be sent (in the NCAA tournament), where are we going to watch (Sunday’s selection show). I don’t know. I’ll think about it after the game (Saturday).”

A letdown Saturday is not an option, according to Lang.

“Tomorrow it will be easy to play for my seniors,” she said. 

“We want to show Santa Barbara that we’re a different team,” added Igiede. “Tonight was amazing. The crowd was into it.

“The last 10 points were really fun.”

The turnstile crowd was announced at 2,130 but it sounded louder than even the tickets-issued count of 3,108. The cheers grew louder as Hawai’i closed in on the title, pulling away from a 14-11 lead in Set 4 to one of 21-11 behind the serve of senior defensive specialist Janelle Gong.

Gong served wide to give CSUN its final point at 21-12. Lang had two consecutive kills, and Van Sickle and Igiede — partners on the Hawai’i beach team last spring — teamed to end it with a stuff of Nevarez.

It was the Wahine’s 10th block of the night. The first was on Van Sickle’s solo against Lauryn Anderson that opened the match and gave Hawai’i a 1-0 lead.

Williams finished with six blocks, including two solo. Igiede had six digs to give her 103 on the season, the first UH middle to have more than 100 digs since Lauren Duggins’ 190 in 2002.

CSUN ran a two-setter system with both Madison Klngel and Carisa Barron finishing with 14 assists. But the pair also were called for a combined seven ball-handling errors, including three during the Wahine’s 11-1 closing run in Set 4.

NOTES: Hawai’i will celebrate its three seniors — Williams, Gong and Van Sickle — after Saturday’s match. Fans wishing to bring lei can drop them off at the designated table for each senior inside Gate A … There’s also a “Toys for Tots Drive Saturday. Fans can donate new and/or unwrapped toys inside the arena.