[ WAHINE VOLLEYBALL ]
San Jose sets a trap
San Jose State at Hawaii
When: Tonight at 7, Stan Sheriff Center
TV: Live, KFVE (Ch. 5)
Radio: Live, KKEA (1420-AM)
When the Hawaii volleyball players look for a turning point this season, their collective thoughts turn to Las Cruces, the name of the New Mexico town that translates appropriately enough to "The Crossroads."
It was there on Oct. 1 that the Rainbow Wahine dug out from under a mountain of disbelief when finding themselves falling behind to conference newcomer New Mexico State 0-2. Hawaii rallied to win the next three games against the Aggies and hasn't dropped a game since, sweeping its next five opponents.
The No. 11 Wahine (14-6, 8-0) put that winning streak of 18 games -- as well as the more impressive one of 99 consecutive Western Athletic Conference matches -- on the line tonight against San Jose State.
"They always have a good team and play us tough," Hawaii senior hitter Susie Boogaard said. "They're going to be fired up to play in the arena."
The Spartans (9-10, 4-3) also will be fired up following their upset of WAC No. 2 Nevada on Thursday, a match in which they also trailed 0-2 before rallying for the victory. The key for Hawaii will be to prevent San Jose State from turning its "crossroads" win into the Spartans' first victory over the Wahine since 1993, a run of 25 straight.
"I'm sure they'll come in with a lot more confidence than they would have because of it," Hawaii coach Dave Shoji said. "It was a great win for them.
"Craig (Spartans coach Choate) does a nice job of taking his talent and getting the most out of them."
Shoji said he can't figure out how to pronounce the last name of San Jose State's leading hitter, Jennifer Senftleben. The real concern is trying to slow down the 6-foot-1 outside hitter, who had a season-high 26 kills against the Wolf Pack on Thursday, including the match-ender.
"Jennifer was awesome across the board," Choate said. "I keep telling my team that they have the potential to do what we did tonight. You have to win a meaningful match against a good team for players to understand what you are saying.
"We need to play Hawaii as well as we can. This win should be a huge psychological boost for our team."
The Spartans also got an impressive performance from freshman middle Colleen Burke, who had 19 kills with one error in hitting .514., and was in on three blocks. With the match tied 28-28 in Game 4, Burke put down two straight kills to win it.
San Jose State is very young, starting three freshmen, including setter Brittany Collet and hitter Niki Clement, who was in on five of the team's nine blocks against Nevada. The Spartans also rely on two sophomores, Senftleben and Nia Freeman. The latter had 11 kills against the Wolf Pack.
Hawaii will continue to mix it up with youth and experience. Shoji used 13 players against the Aggies on Thursday, starting three sophomores, including middle Kari Gregory, who replaced the ailing Victoria Prince.
Shoji said he hoped to have Prince back tonight. The All-American has been sidelined with a stomach virus but practiced yesterday.
"If she's ready to go, if she feels OK, she'll play," Shoji said of Prince, who had started all 50 matches of her Wahine career before sitting out the Utah State match. "She's earned the right to be in there."
If not, then Gregory will get the call.
The countdown continues for Hawaii's three seniors: Prince, Boogaard and Ashley Watanabe. After tonight, they will have just three more regular-season home matches.
"I remind them," Shoji said. "It's hard to get fired up for every game, but at this point of their careers they should be fired up for every game."
"It hasn't gotten to me yet," Boogaard said. "It's a bittersweet thing. It's sad because it's so much fun playing in the arena and playing on this team. It's sweet knowing that we are such a good team and it's coming at the end of the season.
"The whole season has started to turn around. We started off struggling but have worked really hard. We are a better team now than we were at the beginning. Everyone knows we need to keep improving so we can be the team we want to be at the end of the year."