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[ WAC VOLLEYBALL ]
UH wary of Fresno
WAC VolleyballTomorrow: Fresno State (12-11, 5-6) at No. 2 Hawaii (20-0, 10-0), 7 p.m.
Where: Stan Sheriff Center
TV: Live, KFVE (Ch. 5).
Radio: Live, KKEA (1420-AM).
Series: Hawaii leads 33-0
"If the doors had been open ... the court would have been soaked," said arena manager Rich Sheriff. "We have damage, but it could have been a lot worse."
The downpour and ensuing flood has nearly paralleled that of Fresno State's season. The Bulldogs were expected to challenge the Wahine -- predicted by most to have a "down year" -- for the Western Athletic Conference title.
In the preseason coaches' poll, one of the closest in years, Hawaii had five first-place votes and 74 points to Fresno State's three votes and 66 points. The Bulldogs also had the WAC's preseason Player of the Year in senior hitter Kristen Fenton, the program's second All-American.
But FSU coach Lindy Vivas never saw the flash-flood advisory. A day after Fenton had a team-high 15 kills in a loss to Hawaii, the senior captain and team leader in kills (4.56 kpg) abruptly left.
Gone, too, was junior middle blocker Lauren Howell, the team's block leader (1.43 bpg). Neither gave an explanation for their departure.
The Bulldogs have been trying to dig out ever since. The team has struggled with its youth, often starting five freshmen and sophomores, and went 3-5 in October, including a 0-3 loss at UTEP that gave the Miners their first WAC win in more than a year and capped a four-match skid.
They've begun putting things together, even if it has been ragged at times. The Bulldogs won for the third time in four matches last night at San Jose State, topping the Spartans 30-27, 30-28, 22-30, 34-32.
Christianna Reneau, vying for WAC Freshman of Year honors with UH's Tara Hittle, again led FSU. The 5-foot-11 hitter had a match-high 25 kills.
Fresno State set a season-high mark in digs (107). Freshman Mounia Nihipali (Kamehameha) set a new rally-scoring dig mark for a four-game match with 37.
"Oh, my gosh, Mounia had a great match," Vivas said. "Tonight showed what we are capable of doing. We just never know who is going to show up. And we're looking forward to playing Hawaii."
Sophomore Tuli Peters (Kahuku), a right-side hitter who switched back to the left after Fenton quit, added 18 kills. Junior La'akea Campbell (Iolani) played briefly, with just one hitting attempt.
"This is our team now," Peters told the Fresno Bee.
And that is of some concern to Hawaii and Wahine coach Dave Shoji. Although the Bulldogs have not beaten UH in the 33 times the teams have played, the Wahine will not be looking past tomorrow.
"The replacements (for Fenton and Howell) have done very well, especially Nihipali," Shoji said. "In the long run, this has been good for them. They've got a bunch of young players and this is helping their development.
"Their kids from Hawaii will be fired up to be playing in front of friends and family. Tuli is a streaky player, has given us problems, and we'll have to watch that she doesn't have many good streaks. They'll be fired up, come out with a lot of enthusiasm, which sometimes can win games."
Shoji knows that Vivas, a Punahou graduate, will have her team playing just as she did during her career at USC (1975-76) and UCLA (1978-79).
"Lindy would have been the prototype Hawaii player if she had played for us during those years," Shoji said. "Small, good defensive player. She may have been one of the last of the good 5-8 outside hitters."
Note: Shoji said his father, Kobe, remains hospitalized but his condition has improved. Shoji missed last week's road trip, the first time since 1987 that he missed a match. ... Hawaii's win streaks have increased to 192 against unranked opponents, 100 against WAC teams and 35 at home. With Ohio State's loss last week, only No. 1 Washington (19-0) and Hawaii (20-0) remain unbeaten. ... Areas damaged last weekend in the athletic complex included Klum Gym, Gym II, classrooms and dance studios, the intramural and kinesiology-leisure studies offices, athletic department offices on the first floor and the student fitness center. The carpets had to be removed from the bottom floor of the arena, including the Edwin Wong Hospitality Suite. Insurance should cover most of the repairs.
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