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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, August 9, 2001

Keep the light on for Lily?

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Columnist

Does the University of Hawai'i dare dig out what was supposed to have been the cover for its Wahine volleyball guide?

The one that featured All-American Lily Kahumoku.

Is uniform No. 9 spoken for yet?

The one outside hitter Kahumoku used to wear.

Has anybody seen those "Final 4 or bust" signs lately?

The ones Wahine fans had planned to take to San Diego, Calif., site of this year's NCAA Championship.

Yesterday, on the day the Wahine opened practice and, by extension, auditions to fill the biggest pair of sneakers on the team, came word that their owner, Kahumoku, has weighed the possibility of returning.

Kahumoku has at least twice had phone conversations from Alabama with UH coaches, the last one as recently as Tuesday, about possibly returning. Though, at this point, she seems inclined to stick to her original decision to sit out the season for personal reasons.

Any hope of her return is, we are told, still only a possibility. Perhaps a decided long shot at that as the Aug. 24th opener against defending national champion Nebraska approaches.

But if you are Wahine head coach Dave Shoji — or a Wahine fan — it is, no matter how tenuous, easily the best news you've heard in months.

Of course, the way things have gone since the Wahine last slammed a volleyball in the NCAA final four in December, just having enough players to fill out the roster has passed for good news.

What a few months it has been. First there was confirmation that Veronica Lima, the player whose maturity and drive held the Wahine together in the thick of last year's NCAA playoffs, would stay in Brazil instead of coming back for her senior year.

Then, there has been the looming ineligibility of UH's top recruit, Jennifer Saleaumua, the national high school player of the year. Add the decision by Jennifer Fopma, a highly-touted transfer from Pepperdine, to not play volleyball after all, and it has been a tough off-season for Shoji and the Wahine. One they had been looking forward to putting behind them by getting back in the gym.

And, then, the 11th-hour lightening bolt: Kahumoku's announcement July 30th to leave UH for "personal reasons" and rejoin her family in Alabama for at least a semester.

It has been a dizzying string of events that has been responsible for dropping the Wahine from No. 2 in the Volleyball Magazine national preseason poll, where they had been tentatively placed, to fifth. It has taken some of the edge off the beginning of a season that had been charged with so much hope and expectation about a return to the final four.

So, we wait. With fingers crossed and against long odds, we wait and watch as the Wahine open this already most interesting of fall camps wondering what might be next.

In the meantime, there are a pair of size 10 shoes in Manoa the Wahine are leaving unfilled for a while ... just in case.