[ WAHINE VOLLEYBALL ]
Aggies want another shot
The team nearly pulled off the upset of the Rainbow Wahine last year
Tomorrow: Utah State (13-8, 5-2) at No. 11 Hawaii (13-6, 7-0), 7 p.m., Stan Sheriff Center
Radio: Live, KKEA (1420-AM)
TV: Live, KFVE (Ch. 5).
Really REALLY bad.
It's how Hawaii associate head coach Charlie Wade described the beginning of last season's volleyball match at Utah State when the Rainbow Wahine went down 0-2 at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum. Undefeated Hawaii rode into the Cache Valley with its first No. 1-ranking in two years; it took until Game 3 before the Wahine showed up and pulled it out in five.
"We didn't answer the bell until Game 3," said Wade, who ran the team while head coach Dave Shoji was returning from his father's funeral in Honolulu.
Wade then had to answer to Shoji when meeting up in their Salt Lake City hotel. Shoji already knew the outcome after getting phone reports from his wife, Mary, who was listening to the match on the radio.
"It would have been my first loss as a head coach in college," Wade said.
It didn't happen, thanks in part to a season-high 24 blocks, 13 in Game 4 alone. Hawaii eventually wore down an injury-riddled Utah State team that suited up only 10 players, ending the Aggies season at 9-18.
A loss last year would have embarrassed the Wahine. A loss tomorrow would snap the nation's longest conference winning streak; Hawaii (13-6, 7-0) goes for Western Athletic Conference win No. 99 when hosting Utah State (13-8, 5-2).
"They are a team that can beat you -- and will beat you -- if you're not playing well," Shoji said. "They have good players. You especially have to pay attention to Zuzana (Cernianska)."
Cernianska, a 6-foot-1 senior opposite, leads the WAC in kills (4.75). As of the Oct. 10 national report, she was No. 21 in the country.
In last year's match with the Wahine, Cernianska had seven kills while used mostly at setter. This season, with junior Dominique Arsenault healthy, Cernianska has been able to play her natural position, where she has become the school's all-time leader in kills (1,622).
In last Saturday's 3-1 loss at Nevada, Cernianska had 16 kills but hit just .136. Sophomore hitter Beth Hodge led the Aggies with 18 kills.
"They have a lot of good athletes," said UH sophomore middle Kari Gregory, who had a career-high 11 block assists against the Aggies last season. "They'll be a challenge.
"But every game is a challenge. It's all about what's going on on our side of the court."
Hawaii has won the last 16 meetings with Utah State and leads what was once a bitter rivalry 28-7, 14-2 in Honolulu. The last time the Aggies won was in 1981, a five-game match in Logan that was the only regular-season loss for the then-No. 1 Wahine.
Aggie coach Burt Fuller has brought his team here only once before, for the 2001 Aston Imua Challenge. Utah State met Hawaii in the tournament opener, Fuller's fourth match as a head coach after spending seven seasons as a UCLA assistant.
"It's exciting to be here, it's a great environment," Fuller said after his team worked out at UH yesterday. "The Hawaii crowd is always positive, applauding their team and applauding good volleyball. We're looking forward to it.
"Compared to where we were last year, with all the injuries, we're in great shape. There's a lot of differences between when we played Hawaii last year, first off being 6,000 miles away. Our goals are to play well and stay in the match. We want to defend, score and stay close in the match. If we do that, anything can happen."
Returning home is sophomore middle Monarisa Ale, a Kahuku High product who has been hampered by lower leg strains.
"Mona is an awesome player and she's very happy to be home," Fuller said. "She wants to play well here and so do we.
"We're excited to be in the WAC. Everyone talks about how the level of the WAC has risen and we take this match as another good challenge for us."
Utah State is coming off a disappointing 3-1 loss at Nevada Saturday in a showdown for second place. Wolf Pack kill leader Salaia Salave'a went down with a sprained ankle in Game 2 but Nevada was able to make the adjustments, including having Teal Erickson go off for a career-high 24 kills.
"When Salaia went down, the rest of the team stepped up," Fuller said. "Their outsides can and did get hot."
The Aggies' only other conference loss came on the road at Fresno State, the Bulldogs' only win so far. Utah State is 4-1 at home but 5-5 in away matches, 4-2 at neutral sites.
Prince ailing: Wahine senior middle blocker Victoria Prince missed yesterday's practice with a stomach virus. Prince leads the team in kills (201, 3.24 kpg), aces (21) and blocks (95, 1.53 bpg).
Shoji said that if Prince cannot play tomorrow, sophomore middle Kari Gregory would replace her, joining sophomore Juliana Sanders.
Freshman middle Nickie Thomas is currently in Texas for the funeral of her grandmother. She is expected to return Sunday.
Wisconsin chosen as AVCA/NACWAA site: The University of Wisconsin yesterday was selected to host the 2006 AVCA/NACWAA Showcase, Aug. 25-26. The tournament will be held at the UW Field House in Madison, Wis.
This will be the third NACWAA appearance for the Badgers. The rest of the field will be announced later.