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Friday, August 26, 2005



WAHINE VOLLEYBALL


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COURTESY OF DAVID GONZALES / STANFORD ATHLETICS
Cobey Shoji, daughter of UH volleyball coach Dave Shoji, is in her second year with the Stanford women's program.



Shoji vs. Shoji
showdown possible

The Wahine coach might match up
against his daughter, Cobey,
Stanford’s volleyball director

OMAHA, Neb. » It was always a possibility.

The college volleyball circle is not that large.

AVCA/NACWAA Volleyball Showcase

At Omaha, Neb.

All times Hawaii time

Today

» No. 3 Stanford vs. No. 5 Penn State, 1 p.m.

» No. 1 Nebraska vs. No. 4 Hawaii, 3:30 p.m.

Tomorrow

» Today's losers, noon

» Today's winners, 2 p.m.

TV: Live on Oceanic pay-per-view (Ch. 255) and CSTV (Ch. 247). UH matches on free tape-delay: 9:30 p.m., KFVE (Ch. 5) today and OC16 (Ch. 16) tomorrow.

Radio: UH matches live, KKEA (1420 AM)

The first clash of the Shoji ohana could come tomorrow at the AVCA/NACWAA Showcase. A matchup between No. 4 Hawaii and No. 3 Stanford would pit Rainbow Wahine coach Dave Shoji against his 26-year-old daughter Cobey, the director of volleyball operations for the Cardinal.

"Chance No. 2 to gain family bragging rights," Cobey Shoji said. "We were so close to it happening last year."

Had Hawaii been able to get past Wisconsin in the regional semifinal last December, the Rainbow Wahine would have faced the Cardinal for the regional championship and the final-four berth. Instead, Stanford went on to eliminate the Badgers en route to winning the NCAA title.

Dave Shoji went to watch the Stanford-Wisconsin match, even showing up wearing a red shirt under his sweater. It was a no-lose choice since both schools have red as a color.

"That was the best part, because my dad doesn't usually come (after a loss)," Cobey Shoji said. "But he walked down the stairs, flashed a Cardinal red T-shirt at me. I made John (Stanford coach Dunning) turn around to see it. My dad showed his support with his color."

"I think it was the only clean shirt I had," Dave Shoji said. "But obviously, if we couldn't win it, we wanted her to be on the winning side. We had some aloha for them."

But no Christmas spirit. After Cobey Shoji returned to Hawaii for the holidays, she was not allowed to wear her NCAA championship ring or T-shirt around the family.

"I don't think it even came out of my suitcase," she said. "My brother Erik told me I couldn't come home bragging about it. My family wouldn't give us any credit for winning because we didn't play Hawaii."

"It's not that I told her she couldn't wear the ring," Dave Shoji said. "I told her I didn't want to see it."

His daughter didn't want to see the Wahine in the regional final. She doesn't want to see them tomorrow.

"I don't want to play them until Dec. 17 in San Antonio for the (NCAA) championship, not any sooner," she said. "I was a nervous wreck last year in Green Bay, sitting in our scouting area, burying my head, not wanting to watch. Our other coaches thought I would have a heart attack.

"I had such mixed emotions. I never want to see the Wahine lose, but I know what would happen if they did win. It was disappointing that they lost and I was looking forward to playing them. But then, only one of us could win."


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Cobey Shoji: Her Cardinal won the NCAA championship last season


A matchup tomorrow would require that both teams either lose -- playing for third place -- or win and meet for the title. The defending NCAA champion Cardinal were scheduled to take on No. 5 Penn State in today's first semifinal (1 p.m., Hawaii time).

This is Cobey Shoji's second season with the Cardinal program, a case of being in the right place at the right time. Stanford was in the process of creating the operations position right about the time Shoji was graduating from North Carolina with a master's in athletic administration.

"I've known Cobey for years," Dunning said. "She and my daughter, Lisa, played against each other in club. I really like Dave and kept track of Cobey, knew she was studying marketing and fund raising. It fit with what we were looking for. Plus, she has such a good understanding of the sport from the inside.

"It was a good guess to hire her. She is very self-confident, a go-getter and a creative thinker. She has a lot of energy. It's a large-scope job for someone her age, but she likes all the responsibility."

"It's such an honor; I never thought my first job would be at Stanford," Shoji said. "It's a really neat place to be. This job is the perfect fit. I drove out from North Carolina and started less than a week after graduation."

It was quite a journey to get there. The Punahou School graduate began her collegiate career at UNLV, playing under former UH All-American Deitre Collins.

She eventually transferred to Michigan, working a year in the sports information department with women's volleyball. Shoji said she couldn't stand watching from the sidelines and ended up playing her senior season for the Wolverines.

A National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics scholarship allowed her to pursue her master's at a school with a good athletic administration program. Her degree work included teaching P.E. classes and working with the Rams Club, the fund-raising arm for UNC sports.

That background prepared Shoji for the Stanford job, where she handles marketing, promotions, fund raising and alumni relations. She also pays the bills and does the travel arrangements.

Work and plenty of Hawaii connections keep her from getting homesick. She shares an office suite with Dave Nakama, a Kaiser High graduate who is the Cardinal assistant baseball coach and "every morning we read the Hawaii papers online and shout back and forth about the latest headlines," she said. "Dave has an endless supply of local goodies, even poke and boiled peanuts that his parents bring up."

Although she jokes that she's grooming herself to take over when her father retires, he feels otherwise.

"I think she's better suited for exactly what she's doing," Dave Shoji said. "And she's staying involved with volleyball at the highest level."

The two share a love of the game ... but nothing in the way of scouting reports. Cobey has been told by Dunning she can cheer for the Wahine as long as they are not playing the Cardinal. She says she also has to be careful when and where she can wear UH paraphernalia.

It is strange Cobey works for a team she grew up hating. Between 1991 and 2002 of the Wahine-Cardinal rivalry, Stanford won six consecutive matches, handed UH its only regular-season home loss twice and claimed the 1996 NCAA championship with what is still the fewest points allowed in the title match (15) in a 15-7, 15-3, 15-5 victory.

"Every year we played them, I wanted to tackle 'The Tree,' " Cobey Shoji said of the Stanford mascot. "I grew up hating 'The Tree.' And now I'm its boss.

"Funny how things come around."

Note: Hawaii setter Kanoa Kamana'o was back running the first team at yesterday's light practice at the Qwest Center. She sat out Tuesday's practice in Honolulu after receiving a cortisone shot for inflammation of a toe on her left foot.



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