UH's Mason back at practice, eyes WAC tournament
But with an NCAA bid all but secured, the Rainbow Wahine's kill leader won't rush back
By Stan Lee
UNIVERSITY OF HAWAII volleyball player Sarah Mason returned to practice yesterday, her first action on the court since re-spraining her ankle two weeks ago.
Mason, a junior transfer who leads the No. 8 Rainbow Wahine with four kills per game, could be available for this week's Western Athletic Conference tournament in Reno, Nev.
Mason sprained her right ankle in the team's season opener at Nebraska in August. She did it again at Utah State on Nov. 9 and missed the last three matches.
"Hopefully, I'll be ready to go by the WAC tournament," Mason said yesterday.
Mason, who was doing rehab three times a day, said she's not going to rush her return to the floor since the Rainbow Wahine will most likely be playing in the NCAA Tournament after this weekend.
"It's always hard to sit on the side," said Mason, who has sprained her right ankle four times. "(Against New Mexico State) I don't think anybody was struggling, but you feel like you're not contributing in any way. I think it's important that I stay positive and keep my teammates focused on what they need to do."
If Mason isn't ready, freshman Jamie Houston has proved
she's capable of filling in at the left-side hitting position. At Utah State, she finished with 21 kills, three blocks and two aces. In last Thursday's five-game win over New Mexico State, she had a career-high 25 kills to lead Hawaii.
"She did an excellent job of coming in and replacing me," Mason said. "She was awesome -- 25 kills. It shows how good our bench and our entire team really is, how anybody can come in during any situation, do their job and get the job done."
Coach Dave Shoji said the current situation with several left-side hitters available is a bonus for his team.
"That's something the coaching staff is trying to figure out," Shoji said. "We're trying to get our best players on the court. It's a good dilemma to have because Jamie's still doing well, (Tara) Hittle's been doing well and Mason was playing really well when she went down. We'll just have to see how things go."
The team is scheduled to leave Honolulu tonight on a red-eye flight. Hawaii will play the winner of the Louisiana Tech-Boise State match at 4:30 p.m. Hawaii time on Thanksgiving.
Sophomore middle hitter Kari Gregory, who is from Las Vegas, has family members making the trip to Reno. Two years ago, when the Rainbow Wahine were playing in Las Vegas during Thanksgiving, the Gregory family hosted the entire team for dinner.
But no elaborate dinner plans this year because of the game time.
"Maybe we'll all go to the coffee shop and eat together," Gregory said, "but I don't think we're going to do anything big this year."