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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, December 5, 2003

Hawai'i, BYU was inevitable

 •  UH, BYU sweep openers

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Columnist

You knew it had to come to this, of course.

After all, with the University of Hawai'i and Brigham Young in the same NCAA Women's Volleyball Championship bracket, it just wouldn't have been a second-round showdown without the two long-time protagonists staring across the net at each other tonight in a loser-goes-home match.

You get the feeling this one was penciled in by fate as much as the hand of the NCAA selection committee.

Never mind that they have met just once — last year — since BYU was part of the egregious eight that broke away from Hawai'i and the Western Athletic Conference after 1998.

Forget that none of the players and only a few of the coaches were around when these schools clashed in one of the best college volleyball matches ever played, the four-hour-plus, 15-12, 21-19, 13-15, 16-18, 24-22, Hawai'i victory in the 1998 WAC Championship match.

Or, that the Rainbow Wahine have never lost a second-round NCAA playoff match at home, much less even a game, in going 8-0 here.

If it is a sport and it is UH and BYU, it is an event, whether it is tiddlywinks, football or volleyball.

"This is about history; we go way back," said BYU setter Lauren Richards, who was in elementary school and junior high when most of it was made in a series that UH leads, 14-5. "I've watched the tapes of that (four-hour-plus) match. I mean, that's the kind of history you want to be part of."

This is the one the Rainbow Wahine wanted. "It's gonna be great fun," Lily Kahumoku said.

Judging by the exhortations of the Stan Sheriff crowd of 5,842, some of whom were rooting for BYU to get past New Mexico State purely for the purposes of setting up tonight's 7 p.m. match, it is the people's choice, too.

And, it is definitely what the Cougars had in mind when they hopped on a jet. "When (the bracket) was announced, it was so sweet because we wanted to play them," Richards said. "They're a great team, and we look forward to playing them."

So much so that even at the press conference after BYU's 30-17, 30-17, 30-27 victory over New Mexico State, before it had even been decided who would meet the Cougars, coach Karen Lamb talked excitedly for a good 30 seconds about playing UH before backpedaling and saying, with a smile, "... I shouldn't be saying 'playing Hawai'i', because that's not true ... yet."

Not that there would be a lot of suspense in the Rainbow Wahine's 30-24, 30-20, 30-21 victory over Idaho.

Afterward, even the normally sedate Dave Shoji allowed as how this one seemed to jump out from the brackets. "When I saw (the Cougars) in our bracket, I thought our fans would come out to see BYU," Shoji said.

"I thought they would come out mainly to see (the Cougars) get beat."

Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8044.