Saving flights sent UH on road
|•||Chart: NCAA Women's Volleyball Tournament bracket|
By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Staff Writer
The unbeaten University of Hawai'i Rainbow Wahine volleyball team was sent on the road for the duration of the playoffs for convenience and economy, an NCAA official said.
"What the NCAA committee was basically thinking was we needed to save flights; we needed to have Hawai'i come over to the Mainland instead of sending three schools over there," said Sharon K. Cessna, NCAA director of championships.
The 28-0 Rainbow Wahine, ranked No. 1 in the USA Today/College Sports Television coaches poll, will open the NCAA Tournament's first round Thursday at 2 p.m. (Hawai'i time) in Fort Collins., Colo., against the University of Colorado (14-13).
A victory would likely match UH against the host, ninth-ranked Colorado State (26-3), Friday for the right to move on to the regionals in Green Bay, Wis.
The final four is in Long Beach, Calif., on Dec. 16 and 18.
UH was third seeded in the 64-team field behind Nebraska (27-1) and Penn State (27-2) largely based upon strength of schedule.
Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States, the NCAA has sought what it terms "geographical proximity" in its volleyball pairings, though UH has been awarded host roles for first- and second-round matches each of the two previous years.
Cessna said the selection committee attempted to lessen UH's travel burden. "Instead of sending them clear to the east side of the country, we tried to send them in the middle so travel wouldn't be as devastating for them," Cessna said. "And it seemed, as they progressed through, that that would be the best bracket for them."
Cathy Nelson, an ESPN volleyball analyst and former Oregon coach, said: "It was made loud and clear to me (by NCAA officials) that reducing flights is very important to the NCAA. It wants to keep its volleyball teams as regional as possible. I mean, it has a huge impact on the brackets."
Nelson added: "Hawai'i is so used to hosting that this is going to be a whole new challenge, I think, for this team. I think it is going to be a much harder road for them.
"This is a (program) that is used to hosting. They had the favor of the NCAA, in that regard, a lot.
"I think Hawai'i will get by Colorado without any problem. But I think that Colorado State match is going to be very tough. They're going to be really challenged."
Cessna said the committee considered keeping Hawai'i home. "It was discussed quite a bit as a matter of fact." She said sending No. 3 seed UH and No. 4 seed Minnesota (28-4) on the road for the first and second rounds "were the best opportunities that we had to eliminate flights."
On the move: Fourth-seeded Minnesota, which is hosting a regional next week, was sent to Yale for its first round. The only other seeded teams, other than UH, that travel this week are UC Santa Barbara (13), which did not have an arena, Stanford (11) and St. Mary's (10).
Overload: The Big Ten and Big 12 conferences have seven teams apiece in the tournament. The Big West and Pacific-10 have six each. The WAC has Hawai'i, Nevada and Rice.
Advertiser staff writer Ann Miller contributed to this report.
Reach Ferd Lewis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 525-8044.