Thursday, March 20, 2003
UH takes a lookWhen second-ranked Hawaii looks through the net tomorrow, it might be startled to see a team a lot like itself.
in the mirror
Wahine add 2004 recruit
By Grace Wen
The second-ranked Warriors face No. 6 Pacific at 7 p.m. in the first match of a key Mountain Pacific Sports Federation volleyball series. Pacific has won five of its last six, including victories over No. 5 Lewis, Cal State Northridge and UC Santa Barbara.
Where: Stan Sheriff Center
UH vs. Pacific
When: Tomorrow and Saturday, 7 p.m.
If the Tigers maintain their fourth spot in the conference standings, they will be eligible for one of the eight playoff spots they missed last year. UOP ended last season tied for eighth with Northridge but lost both matches to the Matadors. This year, the Tigers have avenged those losses and also own victories against BYU and Long Beach State. Pacific (14-8, 8-5) is enjoying its first winning season since 1999.
"They're a good team. I've spent a lot of time watching tape," Warriors coach Mike Wilton said. "They have three real good outsides. They got a real good middle, a 6-8 kid (Sean Rodgers), and their setter (Chris Tamas), some people think he's the best in the country.
"They're a game behind us in the MPSF and that's a more valid measure than this silly AVCA thing we vote on once a week," Wilton added. "The MPSF thing is decided out on the court. The AVCA thing is conjured up in the brains of coaches, some of whom have real strong geographical leanings and prejudices when they vote. We're expecting to win. It's not going to be easy."
Wilton's description of Pacific could have easily been about his own team. The Warriors are coming off back-to-back victories at UCLA and have won six of the last seven matches to move past the Tigers for third in the conference standings behind Pepperdine and BYU. Senior Tony Ching earned national and conference player of the week honors for two brilliant performances against the Bruins. Ching, Costas Theocharidis, and Eyal Zimet delivered most of the punishing blows to UCLA.
Pacific is a seasoned squad, too, with five returning starters and the leadership of four seniors. Tamas is tied for second in the conference in assists (14.28.) His targets are outside hitters Aaron Wachtfogel (3.39 kills) and Martin Berntsen (4.04 kills). Opposite Nils Dauburs earned national player of the week honors in the third week of the season. The former Latvian Junior National Team member buries nearly four balls a game and gives Pacific a balanced attack. Rodgers was an all-conference selection last year and puts away 2.53 kills and has at least one block a game.
Personnel aside, the Tigers have almost the same conference losses (Pepperdine, UC Irvine, Brigham Young, Stanford) as the Warriors (15-5, 9-5).
Pacific became a Division I program in 1992. The Tigers have only reached the MPSF playoffs three times since joining the conference in 1993. Pacific took games off the Warriors last year in Stockton, Calif., but have not managed a match victory since 1997. Hawaii leads the all-time series 19-1.
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Construction of the Hawaii women's volleyball 2004 recruiting class has begun.
Thomas to join Wahine
By Grace Wen
Nickie Thomas, a 6-foot-3 middle blocker from Westwood High in Austin, Texas, committed to the Rainbow Wahine on March 5 and will sign a letter of intent in November.
The high school junior was also recruited by Texas, Nebraska, California, USC, Florida and several other schools. Thomas has never been to Hawaii but said she instinctively felt it was the right place for her.
"I really thought their level of play and their coaching style fit me well compared to other schools," Thomas said. "You have to run a tough workout to be in the final four. Everybody knows that. Dave Shoji is an awesome coach who is really good at what he does. The teams that he coaches have a lot of confidence and determination and they really hate to lose. I hate losing."
Thomas will join the Wahine in fall 2004. The Rainbow Wahine will have at least seven scholarships available after Kim Willoughby, Lily Kahumoku, Lauren Duggins, Maja Gustin, Nohea Tano, Melissa Villaroman and Karin Lundqvist complete their eligibility. The loss of seven seniors also factored into Thomas' decision.
"I looked at other schools and I talked with other coaches and nothing seemed to appeal to me," she said. "Everything Hawaii said ... it all fit me. I could see myself there. I could see myself there making a difference. Hawaii is going to be losing seven seniors, so that's going to be an entire team that I'm hopefully going to get to play four years with. That's going to make us bond so much better and make us better when we're seniors. We're going to be an awesome team."
Her commitment is the earliest in the history of the Wahine program, but early commitments are quickly becoming the norm in women's collegiate volleyball. Thomas also holds the distinction of being the first Texan to join the program.
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