Rainbow Wahine to shake up the lineup
By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Ann Miller
Hawai'i's search to find itself continues into volleyball's third week as the ninth-ranked Rainbow Wahine host the Waikiki Beach Marriott Challenge, which begins tomorrow at Stan Sheriff Center.
The 'Bows open against Fairfield, which is flying more than 10,000 miles with a roster half-full of Hawai'i players. Northwestern and eighth-ranked Stanford are next. Both fell in the NCAA Tournament's second round last season.
Hawai'i lasted another week, but hasn't played close to its potential since its second-round win at Texas in December. In losses to Florida and UCLA last weekend, UH coach Dave Shoji admitted his team "self-destructed, which is very disturbing."
Finding a way to finish, along with improved passing and preventing an opposing hitter from taking over a match, are this week's goals. Shoji expects to look at "different combinations" the first two nights, with some players possibly swapping positions to bolster the block and ballhandling. Nickie Thomas, injured in the season opener, is now cleared to join in.
"We will play a lot of combinations that hopefully will allow us to see some things," Shoji said. "We're looking at other options to see where we are. We need to figure out what we're doing, then Saturday night come up with the best possible scenario."
Fairfield, a Connecticut school with enrollment of 3,300, has five Hawai'i players on its 11-woman roster — St. Joseph graduates Ashley Hanohano, Lindsey Lee and Jazmin Pa'akaula, Brandi Higa of Hawai'i Baptist and Kamehameha's Kiana Kauwe.
Pa'akaula, at 5 feet 9, is the only Hawai'i player over 5-4; the Stags do not have any 6-footers. Lee leads the team in kills and digs, with nearly five a game.
Fairfield was 18-15 last season and won the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, which does not get an automatic NCAA berth. It did go to the postseason from 1997 to 2001.
Northwestern had its best record (20-12) in 18 years last season, and got its first NCAA Tournament victory. With five starters back, the Wildcats return all but 23 kills and three blocks. They were picked sixth in the Big Ten preseason poll.
Stanford dropped from fourth in the preseason Top 25 after being upset by then-unranked Brigham Young Friday in four.
The Cardinal, picked to win the Pac-10, have three All-Americans back in senior hitter Kristin Richards (first team), sophomore middle Foluke Akinradewo (second) and junior setter Bryn Kehoe (third). Stanford also returns Cynthia Barboza, last year's top recruit, who missed the final 11 matches of her freshman season after suffering a knee injury. She had surgery 10 months ago.
BYU held Barboza and Richards, two of the most feared hitters in the country, to a combined .043 hitting percentage. Both are hitting below .200 for the season.
UCLA's Nana Meriwether, an all-Pac-10 senior, was named Most Outstanding at the Hawaiian Airlines Wahine Classic, her second MVP honor in as many weeks. Others on the All-Tournament Team were teammates Nellie Spicer and Katie Carter, Florida's Marcie Hampton and Angie McGinnis, Colorado's Alex Buth and UH's Tara Hittle.
Dave Shoji's coaching record of 900-159-1 includes a rare tie. It came at UCLA's NIVT pool-play tournament in 1978, when UH split a two-game "match" with Long Beach State.
Cal Poly, which plays here next week, moved into the rankings at No. 25 after upsetting then-No. 8 Texas. The Mustangs won 15-9 in the fifth. The 'Horns beat Pepperdine Friday but the 2-3 Waves, who started the season with two five-game losses here, moved up to 18th in the first regular-season poll.
The Rainbow Wahine's record against Top 10 teams dropped to 94-80 last weekend.
Sunday's loss ended UH's four-match winning streak against UCLA. Hawai'i leads the series 34-29. Ashley Watanabe and Susie Boogaard, UH seniors last season, are the only four-year players in series history to have undefeated records.
Reach Ann Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org.