Daily 49er

All roads lead to Hawai’i for Big West title

Hawai’i is the favorite to take home conference title and make a powerful statement in the post-season.

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The 49ers bench listen intently to their coach during a timeout.

The 49ers bench listen intently to their coach during a timeout.

Jewelyn Sawyer | Daily 49er

Jewelyn Sawyer | Daily 49er

The 49ers bench listen intently to their coach during a timeout.

Kayce Contatore, Assistant Sports Editor

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As the Big West conference women’s volleyball season hits the halfway point, all roads lead to No. 8 Hawai’i regaining the championship title.

After a 2014 season that saw Long Beach State unseat the reigning champs, the Rainbow Warriors have made a powerful statement in the season so far. Hawai’i has won 13 straight matches and looks poised to sweep through the conference undefeated.

Matchups between Hawai’i and LBSU have been close, but the Rainbow Warriors currently have a stronger team, capable of trumping LBSU. At this point in the season, it would take a something very drastic to happen for the Rainbow Warriors to lose a few matches.

They practically have the title wrapped up already.

The only loss of the season for the Warriors came on Sept. 6 at the hands of then-No. 25 UCLA. Hawai’i bounced back from the loss, and the team has jumped up considerably in the NCAA polls. They hold the top spot in the country for blocking with 234.5 total blocks and 3.5 blocks per set.

Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and LBSU are the only teams capable of defeating Hawai’i, but it would take more than just a pair of losses for the Warriors to lose the title at this point. Big West play is at its halfway point and Hawai’i has swept through every team once to go an 8-0.

While everyone has their eye on traditional powerhouses LBSU and Hawai’i, Cal Poly has been taking the conference by surprise. The team took down the 49ers 3-1 on Oct. 2. The Mustangs are looking to extend their six-game winning streak on the road, taking on Cal State Northridge before facing LBSU at the Walter Pyramid.

If LBSU were to take the second meeting against Cal Poly, it would even out the race for second place, but would leave Hawai’i with a two game cushion in the Big West.

The Mustangs have had a successful season so far, but they’ll need to be perfect for the remainder of the season for a shot at the title, and they just don’t have the power to match Hawai’i. In the last meeting between the Warriors and the Mustangs, Hawai’i dominated in a 3-0 sweep.

For the defending Big West champs at LBSU, this season has been a test. The 49ers lost two of their top hitters at the start of the season; sophomore hitter Anete Brinke, who suffered a season ending shoulder injury, and redshirt freshman Sherridan Atkinson, who went out with an ankle injury. LBSU has had to lean on its youth, while the Rainbow Warriors have an abundance of experienced players.

Hawai’i has its own injuries to overcome, with junior opposite hitter Nikki Taylor missing some court time. Taylor leads the Warriors in kills (272), aces (31) and points (346), and was not medically cleared to play in the match against UC Irvine on Saturday.

Even with the their top player injured, the Rainbow Warriors will avenge the 19-straight conference title streak that was snapped at the hands of the 49ers last year. Hawai’i is undoubtedly the powerhouse of the Big West Conference, and there doesn’t appear to be any team capable of putting a stop to the school’s march towards the conference crown.

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