UH men's volleyball top sports story of 2002
Compiled by Bart Asato
Advertiser Staff Writer
To put it simply, it was a banner year for the University of Hawai'i men's volleyball team.
Photo illustration by Martha Hernandez The Honolulu Advertiser
In a year of celebrations from Little League to high school to college to pros the University of Hawai'i men's national volleyball championship was the top sports story in Hawai'i.
Photo illustration by Martha Hernandez The Honolulu Advertiser
It was the first men's team national championship in the school's nearly 35-year Division I-A history, and it was The Advertiser's top Hawai'i sports story of 2002.
Hawai'i junior outside hitter Costas Theocharidis, the tournament's most valuable player, pounded 19 kills in leading the Warriors to a 29-31, 31-29, 30-21, 30-24 win over the then-top-ranked Waves.
"We're the best team in America," Theocharidis said.
The Warriors did it the hard way, reaching the final four by earning an at-large berth after losing to Pepperdine for the third time in the season in the championship match of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament.
After that match, Theocharidis said, "We're not going to cry. We're going for the big fish."
In the NCAA semifinals, Theocharidis hammered 25 kills and Hawai'i held off Penn State, 30-26, 27-30, 35-33, 30-27, before an overflow crowd of 5,259 at Rec Hall for the right to meet Pepperdine, which ousted Ball State.
Then Theocharidis said the NCAA championship wasn't a big fish, "It's a whale."
As promised, UH president Evan Dobelle agreed to fly school mascot Vili the Warrior to Pennsylvania to spice up things for the championship match.
In the title match, outside hitters Theocharidis, Tony Ching (17 kills) and Eyal Zimet (13 kills and 13 digs) led the way and Kimo Tuyay set the match of his life. The Warriors rallied after losing the first game to win before a crowd of 5,357 and to the delight of a statewide television audience in Hawai'i.
"We caught the whale, and it was a big whale!" Theocharidis said.
It was UH's third appearance in the NCAA final four and second in the title match.
The Warriors were greeted upon their return by 200 fans at Honolulu International Airport, then later took a victory trolley ride from the Manoa campus to downtown as they were greeted by hundreds of fans along the route.
UH coach Mike Wilton, who completed his 10th season at UH, was later named Tachikara/AVCA Coach of the Year.
Theocharidis and senior Dejan Miladinovic were named to the 10-player All-America first team.
Wilton, who was working on a one-year contract that was to expire in August, agreed to a three-year deal in June.
For the Hawai'i men's basketball team, good things came in threes 3-point baskets, that is.
Led by senior Predrag Savovic now with the NBA's Denver Nuggets the 'Bows hit a school record 241 3-pointers, eclipsing the old record by more than 60, en route to their second consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
For the first time in the history of the program, UH won both the Western Athletic Conference regular season and tournament titles in the same season.
Hawai'i finished 27-6, the most victories by a UH men's basketball team.
"This is my all-time special team," UH coach Riley Wallace said at the end of the season.
The only disappointment might have been a first-round NCAA Tournament loss to Xavier, 70-58, in Dallas in March.
The 2002-03 Rainbow Warriors ended this year on a high. After trailing by as many as 21 points in the first half, UH rallied to defeat Butler, 81-78, in overtime for its second consecutive Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic championship on Dec. 30. The 'Bows ended 2002 with a 19-game winning streak at home.
A bunch of 11- and 12-year-olds from the Waipi'o Little League became the boys and girl of summer when they advanced to the World Series in South Williamsport, Pa., in August.
It was the first Hawai'i team to advance to the Series since 1988.
Waipi'o, managed by Clyde Tanabe, won the Northwest Regional in San Bernardino, Calif., and went 2-1 in the World Series, but failed to advance out of pool play because of a tie-breaker rule.
Travis Jones provided the drama all the games were televised nationally by ESPN2 with game-winning home runs in the team's Series wins over Worcester, Mass., 3-2, and Webb City, Mo., 2-1. Its loss was to Fort Worth, Texas, 8-0.
Kurt Tanabe, the manager's son, was the winning pitcher in both victories, striking out 22 batters in 12 innings, and allowing just seven hits and three runs.
Waipi'o's Sanoe Aina became the ninth girl to play in the World Series.
Hawai'i's Longest Season 14 games ended in disappointment with a 36-28 loss to Tulane in the inaugural ConAgra Foods Hawai'i Bowl on Christmas Day.
But there's no denying the Warriors had one of their more successful seasons, finishing 10-4. UH was 7-1 in the WAC, with its only loss to conference champion Boise State, 58-31, in October. The Warriors posted impressive road victories over Fresno State and Rice, and nail-biting comeback wins over Cincinnati and San Diego State.
Hawai'i quarterback Tim Chang fought injuries (pinkie, thumb and knee), but finished the season as the school's career leader in passing yards (8,615) and total offense (8,498). Hawai'i led the nation in passing offense most of the season, finishing with an average of 386 yards per game.
Offensive guard Vince Manuwai was named an All-American by The Associated Press (second team) and CNN/Sports Illustrated (first team).
Linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa led the defense with 129 tackles (89 solo), including a career-high 19 in a 21-16 loss to Alabama on Nov. 20.
The expectations were high. After losing in the Sweet 16 of the 2001 NCAA Tournament, the Hawai'i women's volleyball team and Louisiana native Kim Willoughby set their sights on reaching the 2002 final four at New Orleans.
The No. 2-ranked Rainbow Wahine accomplished that goal, finishing another undefeated Western Athletic Conference regular season, winning the WAC tournament championship and advancing through the NCAA Central Regional.
The season's most impressive victory came against regional host Nebraska in the Central final. The Rainbows defeated the Cornhuskers, 30-25, 25-30, 30-27, 30-21, to advance to the final four.
The Rainbow Wahine entered the national semifinals on Dec. 19 against Stanford with only one loss a three-game defeat to the Cardinal on Nov. 10.
Stanford once again swept UH, 30-24, 30-27, 30-24, to advance to the NCAA Championship match, where it lost to Southern Cal.
The Rainbow Wahine finished 34-2. Hawai'i outside hitters Lily Kahumoku and Willoughby were named first-team All-Americans for the second time in their careers.
Coach Dave Shoji boosted his career record (28 years) to 804-147-1, an .845 winning percentage. Earlier in the year, USA Volleyball named him one of the All-time Greatest Volleyball Coaches.
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A crowd of 27,811 saw the best high school football team in the nation De La Salle of Concord, Calif. play perennial Hawai'i power Saint Louis on Sept. 21.
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De La Salle of Concord, Calif., ranked No. 1 in the nation by USA Today, won its national-record 126th consecutive game with a 31-21 victory over Saint Louis, while No. 3 Long Beach Poly routed Kahuku, 42-16, in the HHSAA/First Hawaiian Bank Football Classic before a crowd of 27,811.
De La Salle was 13-0 this season and finished No. 1 in the nation for the third consecutive year.
After consecutive losses to De La Salle and Kamehameha in September, Saint Louis' string of Interscholastic League of Honolulu championships (16 in a row) looked in jeopardy.
But the loss to Kamehameha would be the Crusaders' last.
Saint Louis beat Kamehameha, 14-13, in the ILH's regular-season finale to force a playoff with the Warriors.
The Crusaders easily won their 17th consecutive ILH championship and the league's lone state tournament berth with a 27-12 win on Nov. 16.
Saint Louis rolled through the state tournament with victories over Farrington (41-23), Waimea (51-0) and O'ahu Interscholastic Association champion Castle (34-15) in the final. It was Saint Louis' second state title after winning the championship in the inaugural state championship game in 1999.
It was a big triumph for first-year Saint Louis head coach Delbert Tengan, who took over for Cal Lee, who retired after last season.
Two-time defending state champion Kahuku was eliminated in the quarterfinals of the OIA playoffs.
Castle, which recently had played in the shadow of its Windward area rival, Kailua, upset the Surfriders 25-0 for the OIA championship, and overcame McKinley, 27-21, in three overtimes in the state semifinals.
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Retiring UH athletic director Hugh Yoshida greeted his successor Herman Frazier at a June 21 press conference.
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Two days later, on June 21, Frazier, 46, was approved by the Board of Regents to succeed Hugh Yoshida in August. Frazier received a three-year, $210,000 contract, and in a first for a UH athletic director could earn up to $70,000 in incentive bonuses.
Yoshida, 62, announced he would retire at the end of the year after holding the position since 1993.
Frazier took on the task of running the 19-sport department, with a $16 million budget that reported a record $1.5 million deficit for the fiscal year that ended June 30.
Frazier was an NCAA 400-meter track champion at Arizona State, and won a gold medal in the 4x400 relay and a bronze in the 400 dash at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal. He has remained active in the Olympics, serving as a vice president of the United States Olympic Committee since 1996.
After three successful seasons at the University of Hawai'i, wide receiver Ashley Lelie decided he was ready for the next level.
He was right.
Lelie chose to forego his senior season to apply for the NFL Draft.
The Denver Broncos picked Lelie 19th overall on April 20, making him the first UH football player picked in the first round. He signed an $11.5 million contract (including a signing bonus) in July.
Lelie played in every game for the Broncos this season. December was his best month: He scored his first NFL touchdown against the Giants on Dec. 8, and had his first 100-yard game (four catches for 106 yards) against the Raiders on Dec. 22.
Michelle Wie continued to up the ante each time she played in a golf tournament.
Wie played in three LPGA tournaments this year as a 12-year-old. She missed the cut in all three events, although she nearly qualified in the Wendy's Classic, missing by two strokes.
At 13, she became the youngest to win the State Women's Open (by 13 strokes), and the first female to win a Manoa Cup match.
Wie also advanced to the semifinals of the U.S. Women's Public Links Championship at Sunriver, Ore., in June.
Waipahu's Brian Viloria had another good year, improving his professional boxing record to 10-0 with six knockouts. But with more success comes more challenges.
Viloria celebrated his 22nd birthday on Nov. 24 with a majority decision over Peru's Alberto Rossel, retaining his North American Boxing Federation flyweight championship.
Viloria is scheduled to fight Alejandro Moreno of Mexico for the vacant United States Boxing Association flyweight championship on Jan. 10.
If winning the PGA Grand Slam of Golf has become old for Tiger Woods, he didn't show it.
Woods won the Slam at Po'ipu, Kaua'i, for the fifth year in a row in November, this time with a course-record 11-under-par 61 in the final round. He beat Justin Leonard and Davis Love III by 14 strokes in the two-day event.
Arthroscopic surgery on his left knee will keep Woods out of the season-opening Mercedes Championships, Jan. 9-12, at Kapalua on Maui.
Hawai'i became the center of the youth soccer universe when it hosted 192 boys and girls teams in the American Youth Soccer Organization's National Games in July.
The tournament wasn't only good competition, it was expected to draw more than 6,000 visitors and provide a boost to the state's sagging economy.
AYSO national president Joel Mark called the five-day, 536-game tournament at 21-field Waipi'o Peninsula Soccer Complex "a rousing success. This is one of the best Games we've ever had, and one of the most well-run. The local volunteers were terrific, and they showed us all a good time. The opening ceremony was fabulous our best ever and this facility is as good as I've seen anywhere in the country."
Andy Irons of Hanalei, Kaua'i, put an exclamation point on his world championship season, completing a personal triple crown of the most prestigious titles in surfing in the same year the world champion, Triple Crown champion and Pipeline Masters.
The only other surfer to do it: Florida's Kelly Slater in 1995.
Irons, 24, finished an astonishing 1,546 points ahead of No. 2 Joel Parkinson on the World Championship Tour, which ended with the Pipeline Masters on Dec. 17 at Banzai Pipeline on the North Shore.
Irons, who clinched the world title on Dec. 3 during the Rip Curl Cup at Sunset Beach, won $30,000 for winning the Pipeline Masters, and $7,500 and a new Ford Ranger truck as the Triple Crown champ.
Irons joined Derek Ho (1993) and Sunny Garcia (2000) as the only surfers from Hawai'i to win the world championship.
After months of debate and delays, Aloha Stadium's playing surface is expected to be changed from AstroTurf to FieldTurf in April.
On Dec. 19, the Stadium Authority voted to approve the tentative $1.3 million contract and the installation of the turf after the Pro Bowl.
The turf replacement has been a key issue on keeping the NFL Pro Bowl in Hawai'i. The replacement turf also has been the focus of more than six months of talks between the NFL and the state, and was part of a contract in 2000 between the Hawai'i Tourism Authority and the Pro Bowl.
The NFL prefers natural grass or FieldTurf because its players have complained about injuries suffered on AstroTurf. University of Hawai'i coach June Jones also has advocated a new playing surface.
The original installation was scheduled between the ConAgra Foods Hawai'i Bowl on Dec. 25 and the Pro Bowl on Feb. 2. The new schedule for installation and completion is between April 1 and May 23. Prior stadium events will prevent the turf from being installed sooner.
Even coach Wilfred Navalta was surprised at the championship run of his Brigham Young-Hawai'i women's volleyball team.
The Seasiders finished 27-2 and won the NCAA Division II championship, defeating Truman (Mo.) State, 30-21, 30-24, 30-21, at Canyon, Texas, on Dec. 7. It was the 10th national title for BYUH and second in four years in NCAA Division II.
In the final match, Navalta used five freshmen, two sophomores, a junior and two seniors.
"I think the second one is definitely sweeter than the first," Navalta said. "The first time (1999) we had a very experienced team and dominated people. But this team really surprised me because it's such a young group. I think this is a very special group."
BYUH's Yu Chuan Weng was named AVCA Freshman of the Year and was one of three Hawai'i Division II players to earn first-team All-America honors.
BYUH's Weng and Chun Yi Lin, also a freshman, and Hawai'i Pacific's Susy Garbelotti were named to the American Volleyball Coaches Association's 22nd annual All-America team.
Brigham Young University-Hawai'i became the first NCAA Division II school to win both the men's and women's tennis championships in the same year on May 13. At the NCAA II National Championship in Kansas City, Mo., the Seasider women (29-0) won their third national title in four years at the Division II level. (BYUH also won NAIA titles.) The Seasider men (29-1) won the program's first national title.
The UH women's basketball team had another successful season, finishing 23-8, including a three-point loss to eighth-ranked Louisiana Tech in the WAC Tournament final. But it wasn't enough to get into the NCAA Tournament. The Rainbow Wahine lost at Oregon State, 62-50, in the first round of the Women's National Invitation Tournament in March.
Yokozuna (grand champion) Musashimaru, Wai'anae's Fiamalu Penitani, won three sumo tournaments this year (March, May, November) to pass retired yokozuna Akebono with 12 career tournament victories.
Quarterback Jason Gesser, a Saint Louis School alumnus, led Washington State into the Rose Bowl and finished seventh in the Heisman Trophy voting this month.
Rainbow Stadium was officially re-named Les Murakami Stadium in January in honor of the retired baseball coach.
Super sophomore Derrick Low scored 33 points as Iolani edged Kalaheo, 58-57, to win the state high school basketball championship on Feb. 23.
The Kamehameha Schools opened its 5.5-acre, $15 million Kunuiakea Athletic Complex.
The community responded with support and fund-raisers for former University of Hawai'i football player Nate Jackson, who had heart surgery after suffering a viral infection in November.
Kai 'Opua won its third consecutive Na Wahine O Ke Kai canoe race; Tahiti's Rai captured the men's Moloka'i Ho'e.
The University of Hawai'i dedicated its renovated track at Cooke Field. The facility includes a resurfaced rainbow-colored track with steeplechase water jumps, pole vault, high jump and vertical jumps areas, and shot put and discus rings.
After another good year on the Japan Golf Tour, Kane'ohe's Dean Wilson earned his PGA Tour card by finishing in a tie for 11th in the six-round PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament in December at La Quinta, Calif. He finished fourth in earnings on the Japan Golf Tour with $810,000.
Kelly Slater of Florida solidified his reputation as the greatest professional surfer in history by winning the Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational. The contest, which can take place only on a day when waves are higher than 20 feet at Waimea Bay, has been completed only five times since its creation in 1986.
On that same January day, waves were higher than 25 feet at Pe'ahi, Maui a spot more commonly referred to as "Jaws" allowing the inaugural Tow-In World Cup to take place. Garrett McNamara of O'ahu's North Shore teamed with Brazil's Rodrigo Resende to win the contest.