Taking a step back helped UH volleyball player Riley Wagoner take her game to a new level

·4 min read

Sep. 23—Riley Wagoner's scholar-athlete status speaks to her commitment to getting her homework done.

Riley Wagoner's scholar-athlete status speaks to her commitment to getting her homework done.

So in the aftermath of a disappointing loss to USC followed by an hourlong locker room meeting two weeks ago, the University of Hawaii outside hitter understood the assignment and applied those study habits to preparing for the Rainbow Wahine volleyball team's next test.

"The homework was to watch the film and just go through each set and find any little detail that we could that could help us win the next day, " said Wagoner, a two-time UH scholar-athlete award winner and a Big West academic all-conference honoree last year.

Wagoner had struggled to finish points in the first night of the series, with 12 kills offset by 13 errors in a season-high 46 swings. The issues appeared to carry over into the rematch, with the Women of Troy claiming the first two sets. But after a players-only meeting in the tunnel behind the UH bench, the Wahine extended the match in the third, dominated the fourth and pulled away in the fifth to cap nonconference play with the a rousing reverse sweep.

UH's collective comeback mirrored a personal resurgence for Wagoner, who ended the night with her most efficient hitting performance of the season.

After banging into the USC block or trying to tip it over the taller Trojans on the first night, she found ways to use the block to her advantage and exploited an opening in the middle of the court to tip shots past the closing middle blocker.

"It definitely helped for me to be able to go back and look at the things I did wrong and the places that were open, " Wagoner said of the adjustment process.

Over the final three sets, Wagoner put away 12 kills in 19 attacks with no errors, including a 5-for-6 performance in the fifth set, to finish at.389.

"That was definitely a different Riley, " UH coach Robyn Ah Mow said. "She came back and you don't have to always hit the ball 100 miles per hour. ... Work smarter not harder, right ?"

After a bye week to study and sharpen their game, the Rainbow Wahine (3-5 ) open defense of their Big West title this weekend. They begin conference play tonight against UC Davis (6-5, 1-0 BWC ) at SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center. They close a seven-match homestand with Saturday's match with UC Riverside (2-8, 0-1 ).

Wagoner opened the season with a career-high 21 kills on.364 hitting in a five-set loss at Texas A &M and enters tonight's match second on the team with 88 total kills and 2.84 per set, trailing only middle blocker Amber Igiede (104, 3.35 ).

While she saw a wild swing in her offensive numbers between the two USC matches, Wagoner has remained a steady presence in the back row with 63 digs, good for second on the team, and is a key member of the passing rotation. In the USC win, she complemented her kill total with eight digs and two aces and handled 22 serves without an error.

"That's always been a constant for Riley, " assistant coach Kaleo Baxter said. "She's the steady Eddie, six-rotation, ball-control outside (hitter ). She passes a lot of balls and digs a lot for us and we always know that part of her game is going to be on."

Wagoner plays with an even-keeled approach that helps compartmentalize her work in the front and back rows.

"Coach Rob is really big on not letting one part of your game affect your overall game, " Wagoner said. "That's something we as a team really work on every day."

Collectively, the bye week creates some separation between a challenging nonconference schedule and the start of Big West play as the Wahine pursue a third straight title. Having demonstrated her willingness to learn, Wagoner is part of the group of UH veterans taking on a teaching role for the newcomers heading into the 10-week conference grind.

"We're definitely trying to prepare them as much as possible, " Wagoner said. "But they're a really great group and they're already more mature than others would be, so they're already ready for it."

Big West women's volleyball At SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center UC Davis (6-5, 1-0 BWC ) vs. Hawaii (3-5, 0-0 )—When : Today, 7 p.m.—TV : Spectrum Sports—Radio : 1420-AM / 92.7-FM