Thursday, March 20, 2003


Sophomore Melissa Coogan is 12-4 for Hawaii this year.

Wahine home
for tournament

By Cindy Luis

For the moment, the focus is on winning tonight's game against Pacific. Then the Hawaii softball team can worry about the next game, and then the next road trip ... or even if there is a next road trip.

No one knows how travel to and from the islands will be affected by a war with Iraq, particularly for athletic teams.

Nittaidai of Japan pulled out of the Hawaii Softball Invitational on Monday, citing the possibility of war. Wahine coach Bob Coolen got a call yesterday from the Wisconsin associate athletic director who was trying to confirm a report that his Badgers were on their way back home.

"There's a lot of things happening out there and we knew the treat was coming," Coolen said. "This weighs heavy on me. I'm responsible for our players and to their parents about when and if we travel.

"We could be told we're not going to North Carolina (next week) but we can go to Fresno (for April 4-5 games). Or we could be told we're not going anywhere."

For now, the Wahine (15-10) are happy to be home and to be playing. They returned Monday after going 1-3 in the Kia Klassic in Fullerton, Calif., a tournament that had its final two days rained out.

"It was frustrating because we had two free days and couldn't get back early," said sophomore pitcher Melissa Coogan (12-4). "The road is hard. We just got back and we're supposed to leave again on Tuesday. There's that constant going from the hotel to the field and back during a tournament and sometimes it's hard to keep up with schoolwork.

"It's good to be back home, where we have the advantage over the teams coming in. And this tournament is really good competition for us before we go back on the road. If we can come off this tournament with a win, that will set the pace for the rest of the season."

Hawaii has beaten some good teams this season, including No. 4 Texas, No. 7 Cal, No. 17 Oregon State, No. 23 Oklahoma State, and will face No. 18 Ohio State on Saturday. But the Wahine have also dropped contests to the likes of UC Riverside, Utah and UNLV.

"We've been called 'giant-killers,' but we also have losses against teams that we feel we should have beaten," Coolen said. "We're right around where I'd thought we'd be record-wise, but we do have wins that people didn't think we'd have and losses to teams that ... those are some wins that escaped us.

"Winning this tournament is key, this one and the UNC one next week, because of the quality of the opponents. When you talk about RPI (ratings percentage index) and strength of schedule, our schedule over the next 10 games is all about RPI. These games will send a message as to where we are in the scheme of things nationally."

Hawaii opens Western Athletic Conference play at Fresno State on April 4-5. The Wahine lost to the Bulldogs 3-1 last Friday in Fullerton.

"It will be interesting. The prediction of Fresno to finish first and us second will be determined at the beginning of the WAC season," Coolen said.

But that's next month. This week is about improving on a 7-3 record at Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium.

"I feel pretty good about how things are going right now," Coogan said. "But we're getting down to the time when things have got to really come together. We need to pick it up from this point on.

"As a team, we're doing better as far as working together."

No. 18 Ohio State (14-6) opens the four-day tournament against Tokyo Women's College at 2 p.m. Wisconsin (9-9) plays Tokyo at 4 p.m. followed by Hawaii taking on Pacific (15-11) at 6 p.m.

The championship game is scheduled for 5 p.m. Sunday.

UH Athletics

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