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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, May 9, 2001

Wahine playing waiting game

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Staff Writer

Give the University of Hawai'i softball team a late-inning deficit anytime, especially with Natalie Gonzales at the plate and runners on base.

Put the Wahine in a tight ballgame anywhere, especially if Desiree Duran is on the mound.

Just dare them to lay down a sacrifice bunt, all the more if Tyree Woodruff is at bat.

For the Wahine, it turns out those pressure situations have been the easy part in a 46-16 season. It is what they have prepared for and where they have usually been at their best.

In short, give them anything but time on their hands and an uncertain future. For it is the waiting this week that has become the hard part.

For the first time in a relentless season and a coast-to-coast schedule — Florida to Fresno and Stillwater to Stockton — the Wahine have an open week in which to wait, watch and sit.

Watch, for example, to see what is to become of their Western Athletic Conference championship hopes.

Wait to see what the NCAA selection committee has in store for their postseason hopes.

After a season spent trying to seize their own destiny, for the first time their fate is out of their hands. Not that it makes the waiting any easier.

"It is," said coach Bob Coolen, "nerve-racking to say the least."

In that, the school calendar probably did the Wahine a big favor with finals taking their mind and energy away from what isn't happening on the field.

Coolen said, "At our banquet everybody — the boosters, parents, everybody — wanted to know where we're going and when. And, right now, we just don't know anything."

How three-time defending conference champion Fresno State does at Tulsa these next few days will determine if the Wahine get their first WAC title or even a piece of one.

UH (16-4) leads Fresno State (13-3) by one game with four remaining. One Fresno loss ensures UH a share of the title but the Bulldogs would receive the automatic NCAA berth on a tie-breaker. Two Fresno losses would give UH everything outright.

At the least, the Wahine are expecting one of the NCAA's 24 at-large berths. Still, this is the NCAA and experience has taught UH not to feel too secure until it has a bid in hand Sunday.

Which is why the Wahine are checking the results of the various conference tournaments, the regional rankings and Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) projections. It is why Coolen has been intently taking part in conference calls and, come Sunday, will be up at 4 a.m. for the final one and the afternoon announcement.

In the meantime, Coolen says there is packing to be done. Mostly for practical purposes but also, you suspect, to keep hands and minds busy while the Wahine do the one thing that really tests them — waiting.