Star-Bulletin Sports

Sunday, December 2, 2001


Hawaii's Jennifer Carey, middle, and Nohea Tano tried to block Eastern Washington's Megan Kitterman in yesterday's second-round NCAA tournament game in Pullman, Wash. The Wahine won 30-22, 28-30, 30-20, 30-28 and advance to play UCLA on Thursday in the sweet 16.

Wahine outwrestle
inconsistency to advance

Hawaii beats Eastern Washington
to earn the right to play UCLA
in volleyball's sweet 16

By Grace Wen

PULLMAN, Wash. >> Perhaps pre-occupied with Friday night's win or with what may lie ahead, the Hawaii volleyball team turned in a less than dazzling display of volleyball but still managing to escape with a win.

In front of 625 at Bohler Gym, Hawaii mimicked the weather, going from warm to lukewarm to cold again as it defeated Eastern Washington 30-22, 28-30, 30-20, 30-28. The Wahine were up and down on the volleyball thermometer.

"There were about a 100 ups and downs," Hawaii coach Dave Shoji said. "Eastern Washington was a heck of a ball club. They're well-coached, well-disciplined. Skill-wise, they were about as good as we had seen all year. We were very fortunate to get out of here with that victory."

The Wahine (28-5) advanced to their eighth Sweet 16 in the last nine years and meet eighth-seeded UCLA, which swept Penn State, on Thursday at 3:30 p.m. Hawaii time. The regional will likely be hosted by top-seeded Long Beach State.

It almost looked as though Hawaii wouldn't be making the trip south, as Eastern Washington put up a strong block and served tough. The Wahine started slowly too in Game 1, trailing 11-8. The blocking tandem of Robyn Felder and Lindsey Page thwarted Hawaii attackers early. But Kim Willoughby helped fire up the team with three kills and a sprawling dig that saved one play as Hawaii led 18-17. The Eagles got into a passing rut and the Wahine used a 7-1 run to go up for good.

Hawaii chased Eastern Washington for most of Game 2 until a three-point spurt gave the Wahine a 20-19 lead. But a string of five errors allowed the Eagles to take a 28-25 lead. Willoughby pounded two more of her match-high 35 kills and Lindsey Crandell hit into the net as the Wahine tied at 28, but a kill by Felder and another block from Monica Lynch ensured that the match would be longer than the previous night.

"This was a typical case of one team being favored and the other team having nothing to lose and playing loose and the favored team playing a little scared," Shoji said. "I could see we were set up for this kind of scenario. I don't know if our players took them lightly. They (EWU) served tough and forced the issue. We played tentative, especially at the end. We were shaky in Games 2 and 4."

Hawaii dominated Game 3, but Game 4 was another see-saw battle. The Wahine held a slim lead at 22-19, but the Eagles scored four straight with tough jump-serving from setter Jessie Wright, including two aces. Hawaii had a 28-27 lead, but a service error by Willoughby evened the score. Maja Gustin pounded her 17th kill of the match and Shoji called a surprising timeout at match-point with Nohea Tano serving.

Instead of freezing Tano, the timeout froze the Eagles' passers, who watched as her serve dropped untouched. It was a sign of the miscommunication that prevented Eastern Washington from squeezing by Hawaii.

"We had to make sure we communicated really, really well throughout the match and it doesn't always happen," Eastern Washington coach Wade Benson said. "We didn't execute everything we wanted to do against them. And they took advantage of it pretty well. They have a very physical team. But on the other hand, we showed up and that was a big deal for us against a solid team like that."

The Wahine outhit the Eagles .283 to .199 and outdug them 83 to 61. Margaret Vakasausau, Willoughby and Lauren Duggins each had 17 digs. Duggins also posted a double-double with 13 kills.

The Eagles aced the Wahine seven times with Wright bombing four. Eastern Washington also outblocked Hawaii 12-10.

Gustin graded the Wahine's overall performance as a C.

"We could do so much better," Gustin said. "We had so many ups and downs, it was crazy. The coaches were panicked."

The Wahine won't be looking past their next opponent as they hope to avenge a loss to the Bruins suffered during the Wahine Classic.

Note: Willoughby's third kill in Game 3 was her 800th of the season. During the match, she inched her way up to seventh in season kills with 815. She needs just 16 more to take over sixth place. If she continues her torrid hitting pace, she will be just one of three players in NCAA history to average more than seven kills a game in a season.

UH Athletics
Ka Leo O Hawaii

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