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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, July 6, 2006

Reno to host WAC volleyball

By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer

Shoji

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Hawai'i coach Dave Shoji said yesterday that the Western Athletic Conference postseason volleyball tournament will return to Reno this Thanksgiving.

It is a time and place where his Rainbow Wahine have been on a perpetual roll.

Hawai'i has won the last six WAC Tournaments the last four in Reno. It has not lost a WAC match since 1997. The 'Bows' conference winning streak of 107, which does not count postseason play, is the longest in the nation. Florida holds the record of 145.

The 2006 WAC Tournament will be Wednesday to Friday, Nov. 22 to 24.

Shoji will open his 32nd year when practice officially begins Aug. 9. The season starts Aug. 25 and 26 against Pepperdine. Hawai'i, which has won four national championships, ended its 2005 season ranked eighth after losing in the regionals.

Season tickets go on sale tomorrow. They can be purchased through Hawaii Athletics.com, at the Stan Sheriff Center Box Office (8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays) or by calling 944-2697 the same hours.

Prices are $165 for the lower bowl, where a Premium Seat Contribution applies. Upper bowl prices are $120 (general), $105 (seniors) and $70 (students).

Hawai'i was awarded one of four bids to host regionals this year. UH has no information on when tickets will go on sale but dates will be Dec. 8 and 9. Other regionals will be in Seattle (Washington), Austin (Texas) and Gainesville (Florida).

The Rainbows lost three starting seniors off last year's team All-America middle Victoria Prince, and All-WAC hitter and libero Susie Boogaard and Ashley Watanabe. The incoming freshmen are 6-foot middle Amber Kauffman, from San Jose, and 5-10 setter Dani Mafua, out of Mid-Pacific.

Punahou's Liz Ka'aihue and Amanda Simmons, a 6-3 middle from Illinois, have verbally committed for the 2007 season. They cannot sign letters of intent until November.

Simmons confirmed her intentions on the Web site of her Club Fusion team. Her 17-under Open team fell in the finals of the USA Volleyball Girls Junior Olympics yesterday in Atlanta. Simmons can touch 10 feet, and intends to major in medicine.

Former Punahou coach Scott Rigg confirmed Ka'aihue's commitment and all-state talent as a defender, setter, hitter and Division I impact player from the back row.

"They're getting a great kid," Rigg said. "She will do whatever they ask her to, she's just that kind of kid. She's got so much potential. Once she finds her niche she's going to be a great asset. Liz has a way of being in the right place at the right time."

Rigg's daughter, Spenser, also has transferred from Division II Barry University to UH. The 5-foot-9 defensive specialist, who played on two state championship teams at Punahou, will try to walk on and is already conditioning with what she hopes will be her new teammates.

And Elise Duggins, whose sister Lauren was an All-American for UH, has transferred here and jumped into the large pool of backrow specialists.

Shoji is hoping what's left of the offseason can help his team get healthy, which it never was last season. All-America setter Kanoe Kamana'o has been suffering from a sore knee going into her senior season. Sophomore hitter Jamie Houston hopes to have her stress fracture healed. Sarah Mason has shoulder problems. But, all of last year's non-seniors are back and now have reinforcements.

"We're more experienced," Shoji said. "The skills we lost can be replaced even though they were such solid players. I think we can be more dynamic at Boogaard's position. Victoria will be hard to replace because she hit for such a high percentage (.402), but we're hoping to be a little more physical in the middle. I think (Tara) Hittle will have a breakout year and Houston will be better. Mason is 6-3 and can jump. I'm hoping we can come up with the right alignment. That's the key right now."

NOTES

There are still openings for the final three Rainbow Wahine Camps July 14 to 17, July 18 to 21 and Aug. 1 to 4. Camps are open to girls and boys entering grades 4 to 12 and cost $150. Call associate coach Kari Ambrozich (956-2496) for information.

Since March, former Rainbow Wahine Lauren Duggins, Susie Boogaard and Nohea Tano have all married.

Former UH associate coach Charlie Wade now head coach at Pacific just celebrated the birth of his second child with wife Tani.

Reach Ann Miller at amiller@honoluluadvertiser.com.