Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, May 22, 2005

For starters, Rainbows to have different look

By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer

Recognizing the Rainbow Wahine in the fall might be tougher than most Hawai'i volleyball fans figured.

Junior All-American setter Kanoe Kamana'o will be one of the Rainbow Wahine's three "solid starters" this year.

Advertiser library photo • Nov. 19, 2004

The Rainbows won their first 30 matches last year before falling in the NCAA Regional. They don't lose a starter from a team that rose from total reconstruction to the top of the national rankings in one astonishing leap.

But as the players contemplate their future — and condition like crazy — this summer, their coach says half the positions are up for grabs.

Dave Shoji calls Susie Boogaard and All-Americans Kanoe Kamana'o and Victoria Prince "solid starters." Boogaard probably will play a new position, moving from the left to the right where her blocking and setting skills will be better utilized.

The two left-side hitting positions and second middle-blocking slot might be a free-for-all — the middle for a second straight season and left for the first time since Lily Kahumoku sat out the 2001 season.

Boogaard and Alicia Arnott anchored the left last year, led the team in kills and rarely rested. They still might not rest much but Arnott, an honorable mention all-region selection, is now surrounded by four mostly new faces on the left.

Compelling newcomers

Jessica Keefe is in the mix after last year's redshirt season. So is Hilo's Sarah Mason, a 6-foot-3 transfer from Oregon who could also play right. Tara Hittle, last year's WAC Freshman of the Year, will get a shot on the left. Freshman recruit Jamie Houston might be the most compelling new face.

Shoji and associate coach Charlie Wade, the only staff member to see Houston play live and in high-flying form competitively, are reluctant to say it, but can't help themselves: The Rainbow Wahine Houston resembles most is 2003 national player of the year Kim Willoughby.

"It is Willoughby," Wade finally admits. "Jamie is 6-1 or 6-2, where Kim was 5-11. Jamie has a little bigger body but the same kind of hops. She has a fast jump and a fast arm, also like Kim."

The two are similar down to their upbringings in areas where volleyball is not big, but sports is, and they dominated every sport they touched. Each even had a mentor to mold their game to a level beyond what they usually faced, and lend a sympathetic ear.

In the case of Houston, from Huntsville, Ala., it is 1984 silver medalist Rose Magers-Powell. She was one of the best players in the world back in the '80s, and now coaches Houston's club team and Martin Methodist College, 40 miles away in Pulaski, Tenn.

"Jamie still suffers a little from playing in a rural area, it was not a big-time club program," Wade says. "But that didn't hurt Willoughby."

Houston is not a pure passer, but Wade insists she "does all the core stuff that's hard to teach" well. She is also comfortable with the sport's demands for flying into the floor.

"She can cover ground and is going for balls already," Wade says. "That's as impressive as anything she's done other than touch 10 (feet)-4 1/2. When we got Willoughby, she was touching 10-2. That's a real impressive number."

For now, the coaches can only speculate about what their new players will bring to practice in August, how the 3-for-1 scramble will go at the second middle position, and what Ashley Watanabe can leave as a legacy at libero her senior year.

Kamana'o sets the table

What they know for sure is that their setter, maybe more so than any setter in college, "gives us the best chance to have a kill," according to Shoji. And Kamana'o is spending her summer training with the national team.

"It's an experience like no other," said Kamana'o, who will be one of six setters, including Hawai'i's Robyn Ah Mow and Lindsey Berg. "I'm excited ...Êto be right there beside them, playing on the same court and the same team."

Prince, so relentless until getting ill at the end of the team's month-long season-ending road trip, has shown eye-popping progress in the weight room. The Rainbows also have a pretty good idea what she can accomplish in her senior season.

What they are looking for is the missing piece from last year's feel-good puzzle. It might be in that competitive quagmire on the left side.

"Every team that wins a national championship has someone that is a 'go-to' player, that takes over," Shoji says.

"Usually it's an outside hitter. Our go-to last year was Prince and she was not her normal self at the end although she played well. It was a good thing that we were so balanced and kept having different people pick us up, but usually the teams that win have an Ogonna Nnamani or a Logan Tom. Someone you set when it's really tight.

"We know what we have in Arnott, Boogaard and Hittle. We just don't know about Mason or Houston. Those two have more of a chance to be someone you could call 'go-to.' They are just more physical. Obviously, we'll have to wait on that."

Tough beginning

The wait ends Aug. 26 when Hawai'i opens in the AVCA/NACWAA Volleyball Showcase at Omaha, Neb. The Rainbow Wahine face Nebraska, a probable preseason No. 1, that night, with defending NCAA champion Stanford taking on Penn State.

"We could very easily be 2-0 or 0-2," Shoji says. "Then we come home for USC and Penn State (in the Hawaiian Airlines Wahine Classic), who are just as tough. But I think we'll be up to the challenge.

"It's a tough schedule but I'm not too worried about our won-loss record. It didn't really help us last year. We'll just try to get as good as we can."

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

• • •



26-27—AVCA/NACWAA Volleyball Showcase at Omaha, Neb. 26—Stanford vs. Penn State, Hawai'i vs. Nebraska. 27—Third-place and championship matches.


1-4—18th Hawaiian Airlines Wahine Volleyball Classic. 1—Southern California vs. Penn State, 4:30 p.m.; Hawai'i vs. Western Michigan, 7 p.m. 2—Southern California vs. Western Michigan, 4:30 p.m.; Hawai'i vs. Penn State, 7 p.m. 3—Penn State vs. Western Michigan, 2 p.m. 4—Hawai'i vs. Southern California, 5 p.m.

8-10—Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Volleyball Challenge. 8—Cal State Northridge vs. UCLA, 4:30 p.m.; Hawai'i vs. Cincinnati, 7 p.m. 9—Cincinnati vs. UCLA, 4:30 p.m.; Hawai'i vs. Cal State Northridge, 7 p.m. 10—Cincinnati vs. Cal State Northridge, 4:30 p.m.; Hawai'i vs. UCLA, 7 p.m.

16—Washington, 7 p.m. 17—Washington, 7 p.m. 22—Boise State*, 7 p.m. 23—Loyola Marymount, 7 p.m. 24—Alumnae match, 5 p.m.; Loyola Marymount, 7 p.m. 29—at Louisiana Tech*, 7 p.m.


1—at New Mexico State*, 7 p.m. 7—Fresno State*, 7 p.m. 8—Nevada*, 7 p.m. 13—at Idaho*, 7 p.m. 15—at Boise State*, 7 p.m. 20—Utah State*, 7 p.m. 22—San Jose State*, 7 p.m. 27—at Nevada*, 7 p.m. 29—at Fresno State*, 7 p.m.


5—Idaho*, 7 p.m. 9—at Utah State*, 7 p.m. 12—at San Jose State*, 7 p.m. 17—New Mexico State*, 7 p.m. 19—Louisiana Tech, 7 p.m. 24-26—Western Athletic Conference Tournament at Reno, Nev., times to be announced.


1-4—NCAA first & second rounds, sites and times to be announced. 8-11—NCAA Regionals at Omaha, Neb., University Park, Penn., Stanford, Calif., and College State, Texas. —NCAA Championships at San Antonio times to be announced.

*—denotes Western Athletic Conference match.

All matches at Stan Sheriff Center unless noted