Volleyball: Wahine advance past Illinois

Hawaii moves on to the NCAA Regional Final against Georgia Tech after sweeping the Fightin Illini.

HONOLULU - The No. 2 University of Hawai`i Rainbow Wahine (35-1) swept through the No. 15 Illinois Fighting Ilini (26-7) 30-21, 30-22 and 33-31 in front of a near-capacity crowd of 9,111 in the NCAA Regional semifinals Friday. UH will take on No. 7 Georgia Tech for a trip to the NCAA Championships tomorrow at 7 p.m. in the Stan Sheriff Center.

Kim Willoughby led the way with 28 kills, 14 digs and a .420 hitting percentage. Kanoe Kamana`o added a 51-assist, 10-dig performance while Lily Kahumoku also had a double-double with 14 kills, 11 digs and a .419 hitting percentage. Lauren Duggins posted 12 kills, five blocks, six digs and two aces while Karin Lundqvist had seven kills and a .545 hitting

percentage. The Rainbow Wahine jumped out to an 11-4 lead to start the first game, forcing Illinois head coach Don Hardin to take a quick timeout. The Illini fought back, cutting the deficit to 14-10. But Hawai`i proved to be too much, as Willoughby ended up connecting on 11 of her 13 attempts with one error in the game for an amazing .769 hitting percentage, leading UH to a 30-21 win in game one.

The Illini kept it tighter at the start of game two, holding the Rainbow Wahine to just an 11-9 advantage. Hawai`i pushed their edge to 20-12 on the serve of Kamana`o. UH would hold the lead throughout, not allowing Illinois within five points for the rest of the second game, taking the two games to none lead with a 30-22 victory.

Illinois wasn't going to end their 2003 campaign without a fight though, as they came out to a 7-6 lead to start. UH took a 15-12 edge at the media timeout before the Illini put up a big fight, retaking the lead and pushing it to 25-23. But Hawai`i stormed back with a huge five-point run on the serve of Nohealani Tano. The Rainbow Wahine got to match-point at 29-26, only to see the Illini come back and tie it at 29, forcing UH head coach Dave Shoji to take his final timeout of the game. The Illini would hold off five match-points in all before the duo of Willoughby and Kahumoku put the match away with back-to-back kills, giving the Rainbow Wahine the 33-31 win.

UH will take on Georgia Tech tomorrow at 7 p.m. The Yellow Jackets defeated the tenth-seeded California Bears earlier, 30-25, 20-30, 30-24 and 30-23.

There were a little less than 1,500 tickets available for the NCAA Regional Final tomorrow by the time the ticket office closed Friday night. The Stan Sheriff Center ticket office will open tomorrow at 5 p.m. Tickets are also available 24 hours a day at etickethawaii.com and will be on sale at the Rainbowtique at Ward Center tomorrow when it opens at 10 a.m.

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