Rainbows regain health, confidence
By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer
Two women's tennis teams tapering for their final push meet in a friendly match Saturday morning at the University of Hawai'i Tennis Complex. The Rainbow Wahine, hoping for another breakthrough at next week's Western Athletic Conference Championships, will play Hawai'i Pacific, ranked 11th in NCAA Division II and heading to regionals in a couple weeks.
The Sea Warriors are 18-3 after falling to third-ranked Brigham Young-Hawai'i in the PacWest Conference final last week. The Rainbow Wahine are 10-13, after winning eight of their last 10 and recovering from a deluge of early-season injuries.
At one point in the fall, six of coach Jun Hernandez's nine players were hurt. All are healthy now and taking their lead from sole senior Sophie Kobuch and sophomore Barbara Pinterova, a transfer from Florida who was just named WAC Player of the Week.
One year after making their first semifinal appearance in the WAC Tournament, the 'Bows will be seeded in the top four when this one starts next Thursday in Fresno.
"Their confidence is very high right now because we've been winning lately. That's the great thing," said Hernandez, whose team is 5-3 against WAC opponents. "It was tough at the beginning when we were losing and they know they can play better, but I was always limiting them. They were just getting back from injuries and I was limiting them to 45 minutes of practice instead of the full three hours. I know they wanted to be out there, but you've just got to be smart about getting them back.
"That was hard on them. When we were losing in the beginning, I knew it was just a matter of time."
Time has been on the 'Bows' side lately. Kobuch, a conference player of the week earlier this season, has won 8 of her last 10 singles matches. Katarina Poljakova, a freshman from Slovakia, has won 7 of 10.
Pinterova, also from Slovakia, has won 6 of 10, mostly at the No. 1 position. She and sophomore Alyssa Nafarrete also hit their stride in doubles, winning 11 of 13, including the last four.
Not bad for a player who missed a month and a half in the fall because of injury. As coach John Nelson's UH men have discovered the last two years, while capturing the school's only WAC tennis championships, peaking is primary in tennis.
Hernandez even dares to dream about the first WAC title for the women.
"We definitely have the talent to win the WAC," he said. "Boise (ranked 44th) will be the No. 1 seed and when we played them we won the doubles point and in singles it's just a matter of being mentally tough for a longer period of time."