(Hawaii Athletics) - The University of Hawai'i women's volleyball team (6-5, 2-0 Big West) showed its grit and determination, rallying from two sets down to record a reverse-sweep over UC Irvine, 23-25, 22-25, 25-23, 25-20, 15-11. McKenna Granato recorded her best match thus far this year with season-highs of 24 kills, 15 digs and five service aces to lead the scrappy Hawai'i team to its first five-set victory of the year. Casey Castillo added 13 kills while McKenna Ross came into the match in the third set from off the bench to pound a career-high 11 kills in Sunday's match at the Bren Events Center in Irvine, Calif..
Granato recorded her fifth double-double of the season in kills and digs. She led UH down the stretch, getting six of her 24 kills in the fifth set alone. She has now reached double-figures in kills in nine out of 11 matches this season. It marked her first 20 kill match since putting down 24 against CSUN last year on Oct. 14, 2017. It is the 11th time in her career that she's had 20 kills in a match. Granato also was key in turning things around for the 'Bows in Set 4. After the Anteaters jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead, it was Granato who got the kill to end UCI's run and then she racked up eight-straight points while serving—including three of her five service aces—to take the air out of UC Irvine. In the win, Granato also recorded her 600th career dig. She came into the match needed just eight digs to hit the milestone.
Castillo posted her fifth double-digit kill match of the season. In UH's two Big West, she has a combined 23 kills.
Ross provided the spark off the bench that propelled UH from the third set on. She ended the night hitting .294 with just one error in 34 attacks. Ross helped lift UH in the fourth set with seven kills. She finished just one dig shy of a double-double with a season-high nine digs and she ended the match together with  Natasha Burns on a double-block.
UH's double-double machine Norene Iosia continued her all-around play recording with a career-high 21 digs to go with 24 assists. She also had seven kills and three blocks.
Libero Tita Akiu posted her 11th-straight double-digit dig match of the season with her fifth 20 dig game of the year as she posted 23 digs to tie UCI's Haley DeSales for the match-high. Akiu also had four assists.
Faith Ma'afala had five digs, two service aces and led UH with 30 assists in the five-set match. She also had some long serving runs and she and the Rainbow Wahine served tough to help keep the Anteater attack off balance.
The first set was tight with 11 ties and five lead changes. In the middle of the frame, the Anteaters went on a 4-to-0 run to take a 14-11 lead. Both teams traded some sideouts until the 'Bows went on a 5-0 run of their own to re-take the lead at 21-20. But eventually UC Irvine finished strong and pulled away to take the first set, 25-23.
The Rainbow Wahine jumped out to an early 6-1 lead to start the second set behind the serving of Ma'afala. Later, UH went on a 5-0 run with four of those points coming off the serve of Rika Okino. UH would lead by seven at 13-6 and 14-7. But errors plagued the 'Bows for much of the latter half of the set. UH gave UCI 15 points off 12 attack errors (including seven UCI blocks) and three UH service errors. UCI had just 10 kills in the set, whereas the 'Bows had 15 in the frame. The Anteaters battled their way back and closed out the set on a 5-to-1 run to take the second set, 25-22.
Hawai'i fought their way back into the match by winning the third set. It was a tightly contested set with 16 ties and four lead changes. Neither team could break away and could only lead by two points, until UH took  22-19 lead off a UCI errant attack. UC Irvine however would tie it at 22-22 scoring three straight points. But a Castillo kill and an Okino service ace would give UH set point. After Irvine called timeout, UH's serve was out but UCI followed with a service error as well, giving UH the third set, 25-23.
Things did not look good in the fourth set, as UC Irvine started by jumped out to a 5-0 lead. After an early timeout, Granato snapped the Anteater run with a kill and then proceeded to go on an eight-point service run (which included three of her aces). From that point, UH would not relinquish the lead again and evened the match at 2-2 to force a deciding fifth set with a 25-20 Set 4 win.
The fifth set was close with four early ties. With Okino serving, Granato put down back-to-back kills to give UH a slim 7-5 lead. UCI scored two quick points to knot the score at 7-7. Granato then took over with four kills during a 5-to-0 UH scoring run with Sarah Liva serving that put the game away. The 'Bows would lead by as much as five points at 12-7, but UC Irvine would not go down easy capitalizing on three-straight UH hitting errors to trail by just two at 12-10.  After a Hawai'i timeout, Natasha Burns came through with a crucial solo block and followed that with a kill off a Ma'afala assist to give UH match point at 14-11. Hawai'i then ended the match with a double-block by Burns and Ross, winning the fifth set, 15-11.
The Anteaters out hit UH percentage-wise, .207-to-.175 and out-blocked the 'Bows 15.0-to-6.0. But Hawai'i led UCI in kills 71-to-58, digs 99-to-86 and service aces, 11-to-4. UH's 99 digs is the most since Oct. 31, 2014 when the 'Bows had 104 digs also at UC Irvine. Earlier this season, UH posted 97 digs against Oregon.
UC Irvine was led by Abby Marjama and Harley  Kekauoha who both had 15 kills apiece. UCI setter Ali Koumelis had a match-high 39 assists. Idara Apakpa had a match-high nine blocks.
In 2014 on the road at UC Irvine, UH also started the match 0-2 and went on to win in five sets, 21-25, 22-25, 26-24, 25-18, 15-7. With Sunday's win, Hawai'i kept its win streak over the Anteaters alive at 39-0.
Hawai'i returns to host its conference home opener against Cal State Fullerton on Friday, Sept. 28 followed by UC Riverside on Saturday, Sept. 29. Both matches are slated to start at 7:00 p.m. in the Stan Sheriff Center.