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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, April 27, 2002

Wahine pound Stanford

By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer

Lily Kahumoku was on familiar ground last night, pounding a spike by Stanford's Ann Robinson during the Rainbow Wahine's exhibition victory last night.

Jeff Widener • The Honolulu Advertiser

A volleyball exhibition that began with Stanford looking like it hadn't missed a beat from last season's NCAA Championship performance ended with the University of Hawai'i Rainbow Wahine taking bows after a 20-30, 30-24, 30-21, 30-24 victory last night.

Before a Stan Sheriff Center crowd of 5,662, Hawai'i's offense celebrated the return of its second All-American. Lily Kahumoku, in her first appearance since the 2000 final four, drilled 23 kills to complement All-American Kim Willoughby's 22.

Willoughby, who has been playing basketball the last four months, added 19 digs, five blocks and two aces with a new-and-improved jump serve. Maja Gustin, who moved from the middle to outside last season when Kahumoku took the semester off, had 14 kills without an error and was in on seven stuffs.

"I belong to the middle and Lily belongs to the left side, as you can see," Gustin said. "Now our team is perfect. We have everything we need. ... That game was just beautiful. During the game I was like, 'Wow, this is what we want.'"

It was also far too early to dream of December championships, despite the crowd's anything-but-offseason intensity and the collective excellence of the 20 players who participated. Minutes into the match Stanford coach John Dunning turned to no one in particular and said, "This is no spring match."

Later, he remained amazed.

"This was a pretty remarkable volleyball game for the spring," he said. "I'm sure there's never been a spring game with that kind of attendance before. That's pretty awesome. It was great for both teams to find out where they are."

Logan Tom, last season's national player of the year, led Stanford with 15 kills and 15 digs, but had eight errors as a nagging cold and Hawai'i's relentless run through the final games finally made the Olympian appear simply collegiate. Ogonna Nnamani, Tom's All-American counterpart, finished with 14 kills but hit just .095 in the final two games.

By then, the Rainbow Wahine were in control. It didn't start that way.

"I thought Stanford was the best passing team in the history of our sport after Game 1," UH coach Dave Shoji said. "They passed every ball on the money, ran their offense and we had no chance of stopping them."

That happened often with the Cardinal last season. It went 33-2 on the way to a fifth NCAA title. Five seniors, including a starting setter and middle, are missing now, but the glitter and postseason potential remains with Tom and Nnamani.

Hawai'i answered with Willoughby and Kahumoku, surrounded by a series of different looks as Shoji played 10 people at least three games. Willoughby ignited the Rainbow resurgence with 10 kills in the second game. Last season's NCAA kill leader had but one kill in Game 1.

"After losing and realizing we were a lot better than what we played," Willoughby said, "that made me play a lot better. ... They were defending national champion and we were a Sweet 16 team and we just beat them in four games. And it wasn't like we beat them in close games, we really beat them."

Kahumoku and Gustin added five kills apiece off both UH setters (Margaret Vakasausau and Jennifer Carey) in Game 2. Hawai'i hit .442 in a roller-coaster ride that closed with UH scoring six of the last seven points. Gustin aced the final point, then buried her sixth straight swing to give the Rainbow Wahine their first advantage (3-2) in Game 3.

The gap grew to 20-14 through both Stanford timeouts and a flurry of kills from Kahumoku and Willoughby. Hawai'i also started to slow Tom, who hit zero with one kill in the game, and Nnamani, who had her first two errors. In contrast, the UH hitters only got hotter, dropping kills at a .471 pace with the All-American outsides going for seven apiece. The bright spot for Stanford came when Maui's Leahi Hall served three in a row with UH at match point.

The final game was more of the same, with Hawai'i's 1-2 punch ultimately knocking out the team that will return here Nov. 10 to play a match that matters. Until then, last night will have to do.

"We can't hide our enthusiasm about next year," Shoji said. "It's going to be fun. But we've got to be patient."

That will be hard after seeing what Kahumoku's return could mean in the fall.

"Having Lily back does for them what our outside hitters do for us," Dunning said. "With Ogonna and Logan we're relentless. We can always take a big swing at people and that's what Hawai'i can do. I don't know if there's too many other teams that have two like that."