Shoji and Hawaii gear for Missouri
The coach is feeling good about UH's big win over Texas
AUSTIN, Texas » This birthday present was accompanied by a tag that read "SCE." That's the airport code for State College, Pa., where Dave Shoji will spend his first week as a 59-year-old, courtesy of the NCAA.
That he and his Hawaii women's volleyball team are heading east today instead of west was a gift the coach had hoped for but didn't count on. A week ago, Shoji and the seventh-seeded Rainbow Wahine were re-packing bags for the Lone Star State, anticipating a match with a Longhorn team that hadn't lost in Gregory Gym in 18 matches dating back to last year.
"I'm feeling pretty good today," Shoji said yesterday, savoring Hawaii's second-round victory over Texas on Saturday night. "For us to come in and play a very talented team, come into their hometown, play on their home court and win a big match like that ... you have to feel good.
"It was a very good birthday present, to be able to feel this good about my team and our program. Both teams (Hawaii and Texas) felt a lot of pressure coming in. Neither team wanted to be in that match, not in the second round. Somebody wasn't going to advance when they deserved to."
The Wahine (27-6) left today with Friday's Sweet 16 match against 10th-seeded Missouri (26-8) on their collective minds. There were also thoughts of returning just down the road from here, to San Antonio, site of the final four Dec. 15 and 17.
Shoji will be back, with or without his team. The American Volleyball Coaches Association convention is held in conjunction with the final four.
The hot topic will be a better system of bracketing the tournament. Although 13 of the 16 seeded teams advanced out of the second round, there are a lot of unhappy coaches still grumbling about tough first- and/or second-round matches, or about some teams not getting in at all.
All four coaches in this sub-regional vocalized their displeasure over how the tournament teams were selected and seeded this year and even last year. The four agreed that Texas, second in the Big 12 and with a big win over previously unbeaten Nebraska, deserved to be a seeded team, and that Hawaii shouldn't have had to travel for its first two matches for a second straight year.
The selection committee has members from I-A, I-AA, I-AAA divisions -- football conference designations -- making the selections. Some members also appear to have very little familiarity with the national D-I volleyball scene; with the exception of Cindy Fox of Nevada, there is no one on the committee whose conference-member school has ever won a D-I volleyball title. (Hawaii has four, all won before joining the Western Athletic Conference).
"The people on the committee do the best job they can with the information they have," said LSU coach Fran Flory, whose Tigers lost to Texas in Friday's first-round match. "We need to have a panel of volleyball people, like a (retired Nebraska coach) Terry Pettitt, who will do what's right for the sport, what's good for the game and represent the best interests of volleyball.
"We coaches just want a fair tournament, where overall conference performance is at least taken into consideration."
While some felt travel costs could be a factor when overlooking Hawaii as a host site -- despite an RPI last year of No. 3 and around No. 12 this year -- the bottom line is that the NCAA would make more money by putting a sub-regional at the Stan Sheriff Center than at any other site. Hawaii again led the nation in attendance, averaging 7,300 at home; 1,500 were at Saturday's match between the Wahine and the Longhorns.
"We all agree that Hawaii is a great place for volleyball and we as coaches don't understand why matches aren't being played there," Flory said. "But the mentality seems to be that they (the NCAA committee) don't like to send people on vacation. 'Why send three teams to Hawaii when Hawaii's going to come out (of the second round)? Why not just bring Hawaii out to begin with?'
"It's not a fair mentality to Hawaii, but there's thinking that would support it."
It won't stop the UH athletic department from submitting hosting bids. The administration will bid for one of next year's pre-determined regionals, as well as the sub-regional.
"We need to get the coaches association more involved in the selection process," Shoji said. "We need to have some kind of voice, be able to make some recommendations.
"Most of the committee members aren't volleyball people, but that shouldn't be an excuse. If they're going to be on the committee, they should do their homework and be up-to-date with the entire (national) picture. Texas should have been seeded, our match with them should not have been a second-round match."
For the most part, the tournament has gone as expected, with the exception of the Stanford regional, where Arizona, the region's top seed, was the only seeded team to advance after the first weekend.
The Wildcats next take on Ohio, which upset 15th-seeded Ohio State on Saturday.
Defending NCAA champion Stanford, seeded fifth, was eliminated by Santa Clara on Saturday. The Broncos will see Pepperdine in the Sweet 16; the Waves upset BYU and then No. 12 seed USC to advance.
"In my mind, the west (Stanford) region is not anything you would have imagined," Shoji said.
Should Hawaii get past Missouri on Friday -- the second Big 12 opponent in as many matches -- the Wahine would see the winner of Friday's second match between No. 2 seed Penn State (31-2) and 15th-seeded Tennessee (23-8) on Saturday.
NCAA Tournament Regionals
Third round, Friday; Quarterfinals, Saturday
AT PENN STATE
» No. 7 Hawaii (27-5) vs. No. 10 Missouri (26-8), 11 a.m. Friday, Hawaii time
» No. 2 Penn State (31-2) vs. No. 15 Tennessee (23-8)
AT TEXAS A&M
» No. 6 Notre Dame (30-3) vs. No. 11 Wisconsin (25-6)
» No. 3 Washington (28-1) vs. No. 14 Purdue (25-8)
AT OMAHA, NEB.
» No. 8 Florida (30-2) vs. No. 9 Louisville (31-2)
» No. 1 Nebraska (30-1) vs. No. 10 UCLA (20-10)
» Pepperdine (19-11) vs. Santa Clara (25-4)
» No. 4 Arizona (24-5) vs. Ohio (33-2)
At San Antonio
» Penn State regional winner vs. Texas A&M regional winner
» Omaha regional winner vs. Stanford regional winner
» Semifinal winners