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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Wednesday, November 3, 2004

Hawai'i, Fresno State not playing as predicted

By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer

Expectations have taken an extreme turn for Fresno State and second-ranked Hawai'i, who meet in Western Athletic Conference volleyball Friday at Stan Sheriff Center.

Hawai'i will try to block out Fresno State as it did Southwest Missouri State two months ago.

Advertiser library photo


WHO: No. 2 Hawai'i (20-0, 10-0 WAC) vs. Fresno State (11-11, 4-6 WAC; plays San Jose State tonight)

WHERE: Stan Sheriff Center

WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday

TV/RADIO: Live on KFVE (5)/KKEA (1420 AM)

TICKETS: $16 lower level and $13 (adults), $9 (seniors 65-older), $6 (students 4-18) and $3 (UH students) upper level


The Rainbow Wahine were picked to win the WAC again in the preseason poll. But, based on the loss of seven seniors, they were hardly the overwhelming favorites of preseasons past. Hawai'i's 20-0 start has been startling.

In contrast, the Bulldogs (11-11, 4-6) have looked nothing like the team WAC coaches picked to to take second. They lost their best player — Preseason WAC Player of the Year Kristen Fenton — a month ago and have fallen in five of their last seven matches.

The teams might have as many as 11 first-year starters between them for Friday's match. Get used to the new faces. They will be around a while.

At last year's WAC Tournament, others spoke of the 'Bows becoming "more human" this season. Fresno State coach Lindy Vivas, a Punahou graduate, wasn't so sure.

"We always hope for a drop-off," Vivas said. "Playing them twice a year, I don't know if I have a feel for their drop-off. Plus, the last two years they've been so strong their drop-off may mean nothing."

The Bulldogs have not beaten Hawai'i in 33 tries. Their defense is ranked 14th nationally this season and they are led offensively by freshman Christianna Reneau, averaging more than four kills a game.

A trio of Hawai'i exports contributes extensively. Sophomore Tuli Peters (Kahuku) was a WAC Player of the Week, freshman Mounia Nihipali (Kamehameha) has played in all but five matches and two-time WAC All-Academic selection La'akea Campbell (Iolani) has played in 11.

Coach Dave Shoji missed last week's trip to be with his father, Kobe. Shoji is back at practice this week and said his father is still in the hospital, but improving.

Listening to last week's matches on the radio was "more stressful than I could ever imagine," Shoji said. To break the tension, he "tried to keep busy," but couldn't take off his headphones. He also empathized with associate Charlie Wade, whose first Division I head coaching experience came with plenty of pressure.

"Charlie was probably more nervous than me," Shoji said. "I thought there was a lot of pressure on him, just because we're undefeated. It wasn't going to be his fault if we lost, but that might have been the perception so I was nervous for him. That made it tougher."

The Rainbow Wahine won both road matches in four games. They fought off a game point against Boise State that would have put them in a 2-0 hole as they struggled against the Broncos' aggressive serving.

Shoji expects Fresno State to take the same grip-it and rip-it attitude from the back line Friday. He plans to concentrate on serve-receive in practice this week.

"I'm not sure of the reasons we had trouble because we have solid passers," Shoji said. "We have to toughen up our serves in practice and throw stuff at the team like the opponents are trying to do. It's not so much a technique problem as having tough serving on the other side."


Sophomore setter Kanoe Kamana'o has risen to seventh nationally in assists, at 13.93 a game. Junior Victoria Prince is now ninth in hitting percentage (.404). She is hitting .461 in WAC matches.

Prince (1.49), Kari Gregory (1.46) and Kamana'o (1.08) are all among the top eight in WAC blocking.

Gregory, Juliana Sanders and Melody Eckmier have combined for 169 kills, 17 block solos and 102 block assists at one middle position. Prince has 263 kills, seven solos and 106 assists at the other.

Sanders turns 19 Friday.

The Rainbow Wahine have won their last 192 matches against unranked teams, last 100 against WAC opponents, last 48 regular-season matches and last 35 at home.

Reach Ann Miller at amiller@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8043.

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