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Wahine need to figure things out before it’s too late

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As Hawaii women’s volleyball coach Robyn Ah Mow answered questions from media before Tuesday’s practice, a players-only meeting was going on inside Gym 1.

With four games left in the regular season, the Rainbow Wahine volleyball team is in unfamiliar territory.

Hawaii (17-8, 10-4) sits three games back of first place in a league it has finished in the top two each season since rejoining the Big West in 2012.

Back-to-back home losses to Cal Poly and UC Santa Barbara last weekend all but ended any hope for a top seed in the inaugural Big West Tournament beginning in two weeks. It also likely puts UH in a first-round game in the tournament instead of receiving one of two first-round byes that go to the top two seeds.

UH sits two behind Long Beach State and ends the season with the Beach at home on Senior night. LBSU also has to play league-leading UCSB, but owns a three-set sweep over UH from back in September.

Those are the scenarios that lie ahead if UH wants to extend its streak of 29 straight appearances in the NCAA Tournament. Tuesday’s return to practice provided a real gut-check moment for a team that had never lost four conference games in a season since leaving the Western Athletic Conference to return to the Big West.

“It’s good that they will take it on themselves. I think I’ve had enough meetings with them,” Ah Mow said outside Gym 1. “When we left the locker room on Saturday, it was like, come to practice if you want to be there. When you come to practice, be there, if not then OK, don’t show up. That pretty much was the message.”

The timing of the inaugural conference tournament worked out in UH’s favor as it is the only path toward a postseason appearance.

UH has four matches left to prepare for the tournament beginning on the road this weekend against UC Irvine (8-17, 6-8) on Friday and Cal State Fullerton (1-22, 0-14) on Saturday.

The Anteaters currently sit seventh on the outside of the six-team tournament looking in. They are a game back in the loss column of UC Davis but are a dangerous opponent.

UCI handed UCSB its only loss in conference play in four sets on Oct. 27.

“Everyone cares and we want to get in here and get better,” senior middle blocker Kennedi Evans said Tuesday. “We’re a close-knit team but we also have to be able to hold each other accountable and do what we need to do to get better.”

What has ailed the Rainbow Wahine all season continued into November as Hawaii struggled with its serve-receive and couldn’t regain momentum when things started to slip away.

UH beat Cal Poly by double digits in two of the first three sets, but once the Mustangs got hot behind the service line, UH struggled to get into system on offense.

The reserves brought a much-needed energy in the final two sets of the sweep against UC Santa Barbara. The Gauchos needed 29 points to win the second set and 28 to close out the match.

The first set, however, was a set that Ah Mow said looked like “high school volleyball” as UH’s starting seven didn’t bring an energy needed coming off the loss to Cal Poly.

“I’m just as stunned as you guys,” Ah Mow said. “It was retro weekend and celebrating the teams of the past and knowing those teams and the grit that they gave. That’s what Hawaii teams are known for. You celebrate every single point no matter what it looks like.”

UH hopes to find that joy over the next two weeks before a trip to Long Beach, Calif., will determine how things end for a talented returning group of players that includes six seniors looking to keep Hawaii’s NCAA Tournament streak alive.

“You can lose or you can learn and I think this is just a really good opportunity for us to learn and bounce back,” Evans said. “The season is not over and we have a really good chance to come back. Definitely don’t count us out.”

Rainbow Wahine volleyball

Who: Hawaii (17-8, 10-4 Big West) vs. UC Irvine (8-17, 6-8)

Where: Crawford Hall, Irvine, Calif.

When: Today, 4 p.m.


Radio: KKEA 1420-AM/97.5 FM

Who: Hawaii vs. Cal State Fullerton (1-22, 0-14)

Where: Titan Gym, Fullerton, Calif.

When: Saturday, 2 p.m.


Radio: KHKA 1500-AM

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