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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, October 23, 2002

Rainbow Wahine sweep past Notre Dame

By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer

When she wasn't making saves, UH's Kim Willoughby was pounding 23 kills against Notre Dame's vaunted block.

Photos by Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser


WHAT: Western Athletic Conference women's volleyball

WHO: San Jose State vs. Hawai'i

WHERE: Stan Sheriff Center

WHEN: 7 p.m.

Notre Dame, a team that has been to the last 10 NCAA Tournaments, served as a midseason volleyball snack for second-ranked Hawai'i. The Rainbow Wahine swept the Fighting Irish again last night, 34-32, 30-18, 30-25, before approximately 4,000 at Stan Sheriff Center.

Non-conference victories over the Big East's best team the last two nights came as Hawai'i (17-0) heads into the heart of its Western Athletic Conference season. It plays San Jose State (10-10, 4-2 WAC) tomorrow, and Fresno State (18-2, 6-1) Friday.

Notre Dame (15-5) made the long trip back to South Bend last night with its NCAA-best block full of dents. Hawai'i's Kim Willoughby (23 kills) and Lily Kahumoku (21) tore holes in the young Irish wall both nights.

"Hit high," Kahumoku explained. "When you have 6-3 and 6-4 in front of you and they're long, lanky girls that can get off the ground you don't have a lot of time to think."

The Rainbow Wahine hit .373 and actually out-roofed Notre Dame, 6 to 5 1/2 last night, with Lauren Duggins dropping in on four of the stuffs. The Irish came here averaging nearly four blocks a game.

The Hawai'i defense (61 digs) did the rest, and showed Notre Dame coach Debbie Brown what her team is missing. Behind the huge wall her team puts up, the defense dug just 37 balls last night. But UH coach Dave Shoji expects the Irish to give teams a tough time.

"That's an NCAA-Tournament team," Shoji said. "They're going to pose problems for people in the playoffs. I knew it was going to be a tough week but we really need that competition."

Notre Dame gave Hawai'i all it could handle in the first game, which contained more drama than Hawai'i's first five WAC matches combined. It was tied 14 times and each team had multiple serves for the game. The Rainbow Wahine got it on Kahumoku's ninth kill. The Irish, trying to stifle their third game point, never got a swing as Willoughby's serve took them out of their offense.

Hawai'i All-America hitter Lily Kahumoku, who finished with 21 kills, pummels the Notre Dame block in the third game.
Hawai'i relied on its All-Americans too much for Shoji's taste. "We're still trying to find the right ratio," he said. "We didn't pass well enough early to do anything but set the left." Toward the end of Game 1, Shoji relented. "I pretty much told the setters that the ball has got to go left."

The bulk of the best volleyball was played from 24-all. Willoughby erased Notre Dame's three game points and launched five of her 14 first-game kills in the last 10 serves.

"We're exhausted, I'm not going to lie," Kahumoku said. "This is our fourth match in five days. We're tired. We have midterms. Tomorrow we have to go to school, practice and lift, and play two more games the next two nights."

Even libero Melissa Villaroman picked up a kill in the second game as Hawai'i hammered points in streaks while the Irish had trouble keeping the ball in play and didn't have a block. Kahumoku anchored the final streak, pounding four consecutive kills to get UH to game point. Duggins buried that.

That took the fight out of the Irish. The highlight of Game 3 came when Willoughby, who had taken target practice at the Notre Dame liberos most of the night, hit a ball so hard off blocker Emily Loomis' face that the ball went, according to Kahumoku, "into upper bowl double 'L.' I've never seen that before."

While Loomis laughed, the Rainbows waved goodbye to the ball. A little later they won their 36th consecutive game, tying a school record set two years ago.