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Star-Bulletin Sports


Wednesday, September 27, 2000


HAWAII'S OLYMPIANS -- THE ROAD TO SYDNEY


Ah Mow, Bown
in spotlight
for Americans

The former Wahine stars
must play well for the U.S.
in a semifinal volleyball
match against No. 2 Russia

Newton, Colin making waves


By Pat Bigold
Star-Bulletin

Former University of Hawaii Wahine Robyn Ah Mow and Heather Bown are critical to the Cinderella U.S. women's volleyball team's of beating No. 2 Russia today in the Olympic semifinals, according to their former coach.

Olympic Rings "Robyn has to have a great match (at setter) if we're going to beat Russia," said Wahine head coach Dave Shoji.

"She has to really isolate the hitters, and play good defense. And she has to block and touch some balls if she's in the front row. The only way they're going to beat them is to try to get some one-on-one situations. We're not going to overpower Russia. We're going to have to outfinesse them and that's what Robyn does best. If anybody can do it, it has to be Robyn."


Hawaii's Olympians

Competing today:

Bullet Volleyball: Women's semifinal, (Robyn Ah Mow and Heather Bown).

Bullet Sailing: Laser (John Myrday).

When to watch

Today

Bullet NBC (KHNL Channel 13/Cable 8)
4 p.m.-9 p.m.
Track & field, cycling, women's diving, wrestling.
9:35 p.m.-11:05 p.m.
Women's basketball, men's volleyball.

Bullet CNBC (OC16/Dig.116/AC 43)
2 p.m.-6 p.m.
Boxing, tennis, wrestling.

Bullet MSNBC (OC 40/Dig. 107/AC 12)
9 p.m.-4 a.m.
Tennis, baseball, men's water polo (U.S. vs. Greece), taekwondo, equestrian.


Shoji said Bown, middle blocker, must be aggressive against the physically superior Russians.

"We don't match up physically with them but if we have a hot match, and were playing very well, I think we can be in the game," he said. "Bown needs to block and hit. That's her job out there. She has to hold her own against the Russians and that's one area where Russia has an advantage. If Heather can negate that advantage, I think we'll be in the match. She needs a great match for us to be close."

Shoji said the U.S. had a favorable matchup with South Korea the team the Americans beat, 3-2.

"Koreans aren't big so we had an advantage at the net and I think that won the match," he said.

Shoji said if the U.S. gets past Russia, it will be a major upset, and winning the gold against either defending Olympic champion Cuba or 1996 bronze winner Brazil (other semifinalists) would be an even bigger upset.

"(No.1) Cuba and (No. 3) Brazil don't like each other and that's going to be a war," said Shoji. "I wish I could see that match in person. They actually had a fistfight in the last Olympics."

Fighting broke out among the women on and off the court following a five-game 1996 semifinal match win by the Cubans over Brazil.

Veronica Lima, a junior middle blocker from Belo Horizonte who has played with several of Brazil's Olympic players, agrees the Brazil vs. Cuba semifinal could be hot.

"There's some emotion between Brazil and Cuba and that could affect the result of the game," she said. She remembers the violence of 1996.

"Russia will be a tough match for the U.S. because they haven't played with a team like Russia. The Russians are really tall and they will set the ball really high and just bang the ball over everyone, over the block. They are just going to ignore the block. That's how they play."

But Lima said she thinks Bown will be up for Russia.

"For Heather it will be a good challenge because she is really strong and big, and if she can touch a few balls, the U.S. will be fine," said Lima.

And if Brazil and the U.S. meet in the finals?

"That would be exciting," said Lima.

"But I will still be cheering for Brazil. I cheer for Heather and Robyn to play well but I still want Brazil to win."

Tanja Nikolic, a junior right sider from Croatia who played against Russia on her junior national team, said the U.S. must expect a physically powerful opponent.

"The important thing is to get deflections of the Russian shots because their best hitting is the high ball over the block," said Nikolic.

She said the U.S. must beware of 6-foot-4 Russian outside hitter Elena Godina, who dominated China in the quarterfinals with 19 kills.

"She hits huge, high balls," said Nikolic.

She said she didn't really expect the U.S. to get this far.

"I think even the Americans didn't expect it," said Nikolic. "Especially because the U.S. doesn't have professional volleyball. But I think if they believe they can win, anything can happen."

Senior defensive specialist Aven Lee is the only current Wahine who played with both Ah Mow and Bown.

"I'm keeping all my pictures of Heather and Robyn," she said. "They're going to be my bragging rights. I can say I played with those two girls."

Sophomore left side hitter Lily Kahumoku, who played her freshman year with Bown, said she's "overjoyed" to see her former teammate in the semifinals.

"And to know to know I got to play next to her just a year ago," said Kahumoku.

But she understands the pressure Bown and her teammates are under in the Olympic system.

"With the rally point scoring, you're accountable for all the mistakes you make," Kahumoku said.

Wahine team captain Jessica Sudduth, a senior, played three years with Bown and now finds herself in somewhat of a twilight zone over the middle blocker's departure for the Olympics.

"It's very confusing to watch her on tape on television after a practice," said Sudduth.

"Seems like she was just here," she added.



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