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No. 7 Hawaii Rallies to Avert No. 19 Pepperdine's Upset Bid

Aug. 25, 2006

HONOLULU, Hawaii -

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What started out as a magical beginning to the 2006 season, turned into a learning experience and a moral victory as the No. 19 Pepperdine Waves took a 2-0 lead then were unsuccessful on five game-point attempts before falling, 3-2 (25-30, 26-30, 30-25, 33-31, 17-15) to No. 7 Hawaii Friday night at the Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu, Hawaii.

"I am very proud of my team's effort tonight," commented Waves head coach Nina Matties. "We are starting three freshmen and two sophomores and two seniors and I thought their efforts were tremendous. There are some things we need to work on but I think we played really well tonight."

With so much youth on the court there was no real way of knowing what to expect from Pepperdine in front of a rowdy crowd of 7,878. Those questions were quickly answered as the Waves jumped out to an 8-3 lead in game one. Despite being outhit by a .182-.308 margin, Pepperdine was able to take a 1-0 lead in the match because of aggressive serving. Sophomore Julie Rubenstein was well on her way to a career-high effort of six aces with four in the opening frame, including three consecutive to give Pepperdine a 13-9 lead after the Wahine had knotted the set at 9-9. The Waves' advantage would reach as many as seven, 21-14, but as would be the case all night, Pepperdine struggled to find the knockout blow and Hawaii was able to close to within one, 26-25. Consecutive Wahine errors started a 4-0 Pepperdine run to close out the game.

The second game of the night was a much tighter battle in the early going. With the game locked at 8-all Hawaii committed a service error, was aced by the third of Rachel Lumsden's four on the night and had an attack error to give the Waves an 11-8 lead. Pepperdine began to run away with the game as the Wahine struggled to find answers for all the different looks the Waves were throwing at them. Trailing by 11, 27-16, Hawaii would again rally and give the home crowd hope closing to within three, 29-26. Pepperdine would secure the 2-0 lead in the match on Sophia Milo's sixth kill of the night.

Lumsden exploded for seven kills in game three with most of the damage coming during an 8-3 run that sent Pepperdine up but a score of 13-10. Lumsden's efforts caught the eyes of Hawaii head coach Dave Shoji.

"I was really impressed with her and [Fiers] tonight," noted Shoji. "Those two didn't play like freshmen tonight. I had seen them play junior ball and thought they were great, and I hoped they wouldn't bring that level of play to the college game so soon. I was wrong."

Lumsden ended the night leading all players with 23 kills on .346 hitting.

Hawaii would mount a charge and take its biggest lead of the match after a 7-0 run brought the score to 24-18 in the third stanza. The Waves answered with a 6-2 run which included a pair of Lumsden kills but to no avail as the Wahine claimed its first game of the match.

With a sense of urgency, Pepperdine took control of game four and after a Rubenstein ace led 12-5. The Waves maintained a comfortable lead after a pair of Rubenstein kills and a Kiah Fiers ace had the visitors in a hole, 20-14. Hawaii chipped away at the lead but found itself down, 26-23 late. But a 4-0 run brought the crowd back to life and appeared to have Pepperdine reeling. The Waves collected themselves and scored the next three points but would see the game slip through their fingers as they were unable to close out the match on four match-point tries.

Just when it seemed the pressure had broken the youthful Waves' sprits, Pepperdine battled back from a 4-1 deficit to take a 5-4 lead in game five. Consecutive hitting errors by Hawaii's Tara Hittle put the Waves up, 10-8. But Pepperdine would commit back-to-back errors, evening the set at 10-10. Ties at 11-, 12- and 13-all were all broken by Pepperdine as the Waves kept the advantage. Lumsden recorded her final kill of the night to give Pepperdine its fifth and final match point. On a slide, a Milo attack was partially blocked by Hittle. The deflected ball bounced off Kari Gregory's head and back onto Pepperdine's side of the net. The Waves began to celebrate as the ball appeared to fall harmlessly out of bounds. But the line judge at the opposite end of the floor saw things differently and ruled the ball had, in fact, landed in, tying the game at 14-all. Hawaii completed the come-from-behind victory on Juliana Sander's 15th kill of the night.

For Pepperdine, Rubenstein ended the night with 18 kills, six aces, 12 digs and two blocks. Milo hit .344 with 17 kills and four blocks. Senior Kekai Crabbe notched 31 digs.

Hawaii was paced by Jamie Houston's 21 kills and 19 digs. Hittle's 17-kill, 21-dig effort was one of three double-doubles turned in by the Wahine as setter Kanoe Kaman'o finished the night with 67 assists and 17 digs.

These same two teams will go at it again tomorrow night at 10 p.m. (PDT).