(Hawaii Athletics) - The University of Hawai'i women's volleyball team showed its grit and determination as it held off UC Santa Barbara to win in five sets, 19-25, 25-14, 25-21, 19-25, 15-10 at The Thunderdome in Santa Barbara, Calif on Friday night. The win improves UH's overall record to 9-5 and its Big West record to 5-0 while the Gauchos fell to 12-7 overall and 4-3 in conference. Senior McKenna Granato was one of four Rainbow Wahine to posted double-digits in kills while Natasha Burns led with a career-high eight blocks and Tita Akiu tied her UH career-high 26 digs for the third time this season.
Granato pounded a team-high 16 kills (tied for match-high with UCSB's Lindsey Ruddins). Granato recorded her sixth double-double of the season, notching 14 digs in the match. She also had a match-high three service aces and was in on two blocks. Granato had seven kills in the first set alone and started off the second set needing just one to hit the 900 career-kill milestone mark, which she got on the first play of the second set.
Senior middle hitter Sarah Liva added a career-high 11 kills and hit .348 (11-3-23) and a UH career-high four blocks.
Junior Norene Iosia ended the match one dig shy of recording her third triple-double of the season, posting 10 kills with 23 assists, nine digs and four blocks. In the match, Iosia—who had served as the setter the past two seasons—recorded her 200th career kill in the third set. While senior outside hitter Casey Castillo started on the leftside, but switched to opposite mid-match and ended with 10 kills, three blocks, three digs and two assists.
Akiu got back into double-digit digs, bringing her total to 13 matches with 10 or more digs. The Texas Tech transfer now also has tallied six matches with 20+ digs this year. Akiu ended the match with a walk-off service ace.
Senior setter Faith Ma'afala recorded her fifth double-double of the season, dishing out 19 assists while tying her career-high with 16 digs. She also had one kill.
In the first set, although UH kept things fairly close, the 'Bows struggle with errors, committed 12 hitting errors and three serving errors. The Gauchos out-hit UH .140-to-0.38 in the first set alone and the 'Bows' middle hitter did not account for any of UH's 14 kills in the first frame.
UH came back to tie the match at 1-1, leading Set 2 from wire-to-wire, 25-14. Hawai'i shuffled their lineup, shifting Castillo to opposite with McKenna Ross coming into play on the left. UH jumped out to a 9-3 lead to start and then pulled away scoring in small chunks at a time.
The Gauchos responded, by jumping out to a 9-4 lead to start the third set. But after a UH timeout, with Rika Okino serving, UCSB committed three-straight UCSB hitting errors to bring the 'Bows back to within two points at 9-11, forcing the Gauchos to call a timeout of their own. Coming out of the Gauchos' timeout, UH was able to tie the set at 12-12 on a UCSB attack error. Later, Granato dealt back-to-back aces to give UH a 17-14 lead, as UCSB called their second timeout. The Gauchos would fight back to take a 21-20 lead forcing UH to call its second timeout to stop the bleeding. From that point, Iosia stuffed UCSB with a solo block to tie the set at 21-21. UH closed out the set on a 5-to-0 run with Okino behind the service line to steal Set 3, 25-21.
Set four saw the Gauchos jump out to a five-point lead at 10-5 to force a UH timeout. UCSB then extended their lead to seven and held that lead to force a deciding fifth set, taking the fourth set, 25-19.
After UCSB got the first point of the fifth set, UH went on a 6-to-0 run to go up, 6-1. From there, UH led by as much as six points at 12-6. The Gauchos tried to rally back, but the deficit was too much to overcome from as Hawai'i's Akiu ended the match with a service ace for the win, 15-10.
UCSB's Lindsey Ruddins recorded 16 kills, but hit .043 with 13 errors in 70 attacks. Gauchos' libero Emilia Petrachi tallied a match-high 29 digs while  setter Olivia Lovenberg had a match-high 34 assists.
For the first time this season, Hawai'i as a team recorded at least 10 blocks, ended the night out-blocking UCSB, 13.0-to-10.0. As a team, UH out-hit UCSB in hitting percentage, .138-to-.081 and in kills, 55-to-44. UH also had 89 digs to UCSB's 80.
The Hawai'i win sets up a battle of the Big West unbeatens, as UH will battle No. 13 Cal Poly (15-1, 5-0 Big West) in a quick turnaround tomorrow, Saturday night at Robert A. Mott Athletics Center in San Luis, Obispo, Calif. at 4:00 p.m. HT.