Stanford's timing uncanny
By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Staff Columnist
It is the Stanford Cardinal women's volleyball team and, wouldn't you know it, here it comes again.
No sooner does the University of Hawai'i finally ascend to No. 1 in the USA Today/American Volleyball Coaches Association poll this week then the Rainbow Wahine turn around just in time to see guess-who's-coming-to-dinner.
After 10 weeks of patiently plugging away, taking care of business, winning them one at a time and all that, the Rainbow Wahine finally get to the top and suddenly (cue the theme from "Jaws") Stanford is lurking around the corner Sunday at the Stan Sheriff Center.
UH barely gets to enjoy the prestige of its position and have more bench-clearing fun against Nevada and Boise State this weekend and the Cardinal, the defending national champion, turns the mood back to business in a hurry.
Out of 328 teams in the Division I-A volleyball world who could be here this week, Stanford, fresh off its upset of previous No. 1 Southern California in Los Angeles, has to be one of the first off the plane.
"It is kind of well ... funny," UH coach Dave Shoji says of the timing. Only he wasn't laughing. Not even a little.
Small wonder. The last time the Rainbow Wahine occupied the top spot in the coaches' poll, guess who showed up and spoiled the party?
Yup, the ladies in cardinal and white.
It was Nov. 2, 1996, and Stanford, No. 4 in the polls then and now, put a dent in what had been an unbeaten record and 23-match win streak with a four-game victory.
"It is the same kind of scenario," Shoji acknowledged. "I think we even played Notre Dame twice in a row that year, too."
Even if Sunday's nonconference match hadn't been scheduled, the 21-0 Rainbow Wahine and 21-3 Cardinal figured to meet somewhere along the line ... probably at the final four in New Orleans next month.
Given the big picture and the goal of winning a fifth national title, perhaps it is even best this way for the Rainbow Wahine. After fattening up on the Western Athletic Conference without working up much of a sweat, it will be good to get a gauge of where they really stand in a big match environment.
It will be an opportune test of where the Rainbow Wahine are or aren't before they get to the point of no return, next month in the playoffs.
If there are to be any surprises or the need for any repairs, better now than come the NCAA Tournament.