Volleyball: Wahine come up short against Gators

Hawaii's season comes to a end in a four game defeat to Florida at the NCAA National Semi-Final in Dallas.

DALLAS - The No. 2 University of Hawai`i Rainbow Wahine (36-2) ended their season with a loss to the No. 3 Flordia Gators (36-1) 28-30, 28-30, 30-23 and 28-30 in front of a crowd of 6,805 in the NCAA Championship semifinals at Reunion Arena.

UH lost despite outscoring the Gators in the match 114-113 in one of the closest matches of the year. In the loss, Hawai`i snapped Florida's 105-game winning streak, the longest in NCAA history, in the third game.

Kim Willoughby and Lily Kahumoku put up 21 kills a piece, with Willoughby adding three aces and 18 digs, and Kahumoku throwing in 15 digs and three blocks. Lauren Duggins ended the night with 12 kills and six blocks, while Maja Gustin came up with seven kills and a .600 hitting percentage in two games. Melissa Villaroman ended the match with 18 digs.

Hawai`i came out on fire as a big block by Duggins started a 6-1 run to start the first game. The Gators got back into it at 7-5 on three-straight points before a 5-2 UH run got their lead back up to 12-7. Florida cut back into the lead, getting it down to 15-12 at the media timeout. After giving up one right away, UH went on a 4-1 run, getting their edge up to 19-14 to force UF coach Mary Wise to take a timeout. The Gators came back with a 5-1 run after the break to cut the deficit to 20-19, forcing UH to take their first timeout. Florida continued to roll, as they took their first lead of the game at 22-21. They kept that one-point lead at 23-22 before three-straight Rainbow Wahine points turned it back in the UH's advantage 25-22, forcing Wise to use her last timeout of the game. But UF quickly responded with four-straight points, taking the lead back at 26-25. The Gators kept it going, taking the game 30-28.

The second game went back-and-forth, as there were five ties before a three-point run gave the Rainbow Wahine a slight 15-14 advantage at the media timeout. Hawai`i held the lead until a three-point run by the Gators put them up 20-19, forcing a UH timeout. The teams kept it tight as UH tied the game at 26 before two kills by Aury Cruz sparked another 3-0 to give Florida game-point at 29-26. The Rainbow Wahine held off two game-points before a kill by Cruz put game two away, 30-28.

UH and their seven seniors weren't ready to end their season yet though. Hawai`i came out and took a 10-5 lead forcing Wise to call an early timeout. The Rainbow Wahine continued to roll out of the break, pushing the lead to 15-6 on a big overpass-kill by Gustin. UH kept it going as a Kahumoku ace put them up 22-13, forcing the Gators to use their final timeout. Hawai`i got one more before UF went on a 5-0 run on the serve of Taylor Williams, cutting the deficit to 23-18. Florida was able to cut the edge down to four points on a couple occasions before Hawai`i poured it on, finishing off game three, 30-23.

Willoughby served the Rainbow Wahine to a 4-0 lead to start the fourth game. Florida got a few points before three points on the serve of Tano gave UH a 9-3 lead, forcing a UF timeout. Florida came back with a run of their own to cut it down to 12-10 before UH Head Coach Dave Shoji called his first timeout. The Gators kept fighting, taking their first lead of the game at 17-16.

Hawai`i got the lead back at 18-17 before a four-point run on the serve of Michelle Chatman gave Florida a 21-18 lead, forcing UH to use its final timeout. The Gators got their edge to 27-22 before a ferocious 5-1 run cut it down to 28-27. But Florida proved too much as they closed it out, taking the fourth game 30-28.

The match ended UH's season with a record of 36-2, the second-most wins in school history. It also ended the careers of seven seniors in Willoughby, Kahumoku, Duggins, Gustin, Villaroman, Nohealani Tano and Karin Lundqvist.

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