By Cindy Luis
Hawaii coach Dave Shoji's run into the volleyball history book took longer than expected but the No. 9 Rainbow Wahine defeated Santa Clara 23-25, 25-15, 23-25, 25-17 tonight at the Stan Sheriff Center.
Senior All-American Emily Hartong finished with a match-high 20 kills and team-high 14 digs for Hawaii (3-1, 2-0 Hawaiian Airlines Classic). Sophomore middle Jade Vorster added 10 kills and was in on five of Hawaii's 12 blocks, while senior libero Ali Longo had 13 of the Wahine's 60 digs.
Nikki Hess had 19 kills and Megan Anders 13 for the Broncos (2-3, 0-2) in the match that last 2 hours and 30 minutes.
Among the raucous crowd of 6,053 were Tita Ahuna and Mahina Eleneki, who led Hawaii to its last NCAA championship in 1987. Shoji called retired UCLA coach Andy Banachowski out of the stands to share the celebration on the court.
"Thank you Andy, I feel very honored to break your record," Shoji said after reaching 1,107. "I am so humbled by this tonight. And I want to thank all the players who came through the program, they are all part of this record.
"There are a lot of my assistants here tonight, including the guy I want to beat tomorrow (UCLA's Mike Sealy)."
The Wahine and 10th-ranked Bruins (5-0, 2-0) meet for the 71st time in Saturday's 7:30 p.m. tournament finale, which will determine the championship. Hawaii holds a 36-34 series lead.
In the 5 p.m. opener, New Mexico State (1-4, 0-2), meets Santa Clara. The Aggies were swept by the Bruins in today's first match, 25-15, 25-22, 25-12.
The celebration included proclamations from the the state by Gov. Neil Abercrombie and City & County of Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell.
Hawaii had no blocks in Set 1 but had five in rolling out to a 21-12 lead in Set 2. Vorster had two solo blocks and an assist as the Wahine dominated early.
Set 2 ended on a solo stuff of Maddie Cannon by senior outside Ashley Kastl. It was the sixth block of the set for the Wahine, who hit .333.
Hawaii overcame a slow start in Set 1, trailing by as many as four points (5-1 and 10-6). A dump shot by senior setter Mita Uiato sparked a 7-0 run that put the Wahine ahead for good at 13-10, a run that had freshman defensive specialist Kayla Kawamura holding serve for six straight points, including two kills by Hartong.
Hawaii pulled away to a 23-18 lead only to have Santa Clara answer back, closing to 23-22. Hartong had both kills in the 2-1 closing run.
The Broncos pulled out Set 3 25-23, needing two set points to do so. The Wahine trailed for most of Set 3 before finally catching the Broncos at 18. It was tied three more times, the last at 22.
Santa Clara gained a 24-22 advantage on a kill by Anders. Anders' hitting error made it 24-23, but Taylor Milton's fourth kill of the night won it for the Broncos, forcing Set 4.
Set 4 was close early before the Wahine began to pull away after a 14-14 tie. Hawaii went on an 11-3 run to get the celebration started, capped by an ace from Uiato.