By: Jaryd Bongcaras, CW

The UC Riverside volleyball team fell in straight sets to No. 14 Hawai’i at the SRC arena (10-25, 18-25, 22-25).

Senior libero Maddie Hubbell provided a game-high of 18 digs to extend her UCR volleyball program-best career total. Freshman outside hitter Mickayla Sherman led the Highlanders with 11 kills and contributed six digs. However, as the team’s best hitter, Sherman was the only UCR player who had double digit kills. Hawaii’s duo of McKenna Granato (outside hitter) and Nikki Taylor (opposite) provided 12 and 11 kills, respectively. What really hurt the blue and gold, however, was the fact that they had 22 errors — twice the amount Hawai’i had.

The Highlanders got off to a slow start in the first set, finding themselves constantly having to claw back into the game as Hawai’i raced to a quick 8-2 lead. The Rainbow Wahine doubled the amount of kills the Highlanders had, successfully executing 16 in the opening set. Adding more salt to the wound, Hawai’i had three blocks as opposed to zero for Riverside to begin with. The Highlanders did their best to hold their own against the 14th-ranked team, seemingly having more difficulty staying in longer points. The Rainbow Wahine did a phenomenal job of extending each point, sometimes lulling the Highlanders with constant kill attempts, and following up with a handful of setter dump shots.

There were a lot of Hawai’i fans in attendance, even rivalling UCR’s third-largest home showing of 676 people on Native American Heritage night. But when asked if the opposing crowd had any effect on the level of play for the Highlanders, Head Coach Michelle Patton quickly refuted this. “It still felt like home for us,” Patton stated. “Hawai’i seems to have a good turnout in every sporting event, which is expected.”

When asked about how essential it is to get off to a strong start in a game, Patton said, “It’s everything, you have got to put them on their heels at the very beginning. If you come in and they get into a nice comfortable rhythm in our gym, it’s going to be hard to get them out of it.”

Even though they only put up 10 points on the board in the opening set, there were no signs of the Highlanders feeling discouraged. After calling a timeout due to a 10-5 Hawai’i lead in the second set, the Highlanders used newfound momentum to tie the game at 16 all. The Rainbow Wahine ultimately responded by closing out the set, 25-18, after going on a 9-2 run.

With the third set tied at seven apiece, the Highlanders gutted out the following four points, giving them the largest lead of the night at 12-8. After fighting off three of Hawaii’s match points, the Highlanders lost the third set 25-22.

The Highlanders’ next match is on the road this Tuesday, Nov. 1 at Cal State Northridge beginning at 7 p.m.