RAINBOW WAHINE VOLLEYBALL
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
New Rainbow Wahine volleyball associate coach Mike Sealy gave serving pointers to Tara Hittle yesterday.
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Spring cleaning for the Hawaii women's volleyball team means wiping away the rust built up since last being -- officially -- on the court together in December. It also means working out the kinks that informal workouts the past few weeks haven't quite fixed.
The Rainbow Wahine opened spring practice yesterday in Gym 2, with one eye on tomorrow's exhibition match against Wisconsin, the other on August when two-a-day practices begin.
WISCONSIN AT HAWAII
When: Tomorrow, 7 p.m.
Where: Stan Sheriff Center
Tickets: $3 to $10
They can't wait.
"I'm excited," All-American setter Kanoe Kamana'o said. "We've got these two days to see what sort of lineups Dave (UH coach Shoji) wants to try.
"We've been jelling really well (during informal workouts). We have a lot of returnees and everyone's been working really hard."
Hawaii returns five all-conference starters from the 27-7 squad that was upset by Missouri in the NCAA regional semifinal. Gone are All-American middle Victoria Prince, all-conference libero Ashley Watanabe and outside hitter Susie Boogaard.
"It changes every year and I think you have to embrace that," setter Cayley Thurbly said. "When they're gone, they're gone and you have to accept it.
"I think our team will be really good. Everyone got a lot more physical over the spring, are in better shape. The offseason workout commitment was there. There's going to be a lot of competition for positions. Everyone is looking forward to this game, looking forward to having a lot of fun and seeing what we've got."
Hawaii has two new faces on the roster for spring, libero Elise Duggins, sister of former Wahine All-American Lauren Duggins and transfer from Long Beach State, and Mike Sealy, hired to replace Charlie Wade as an associate coach.
Sealy arrived last week and has already gotten a round of golf in and hit the beach. The Southern California native also surfs.
"I met the girls in January and I really like them," Sealy said. "I watched them play a little bit last week, but couldn't talk to them.
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hawaii coach Dave Shoji, right, watches the Rainbow Wahine go through drills yesterday during the first day of spring practice.
"We lost a couple of very good players, but we have a lot of good talent back."
The same can be said for tomorrow's opponent, Wisconsin, which finished 26-7, losing to eventual national champion Washington in the regional final. The Badgers lost All-American middle Sheila Shaw and outside hitter Aubrey Meierotto, but will have five starters back.
Tomorrow, Wisconsin will only have four on the court. Jackie Simpson, the starting setter for most of the past two seasons, broke her hand during Sunday's workout in Gym 1. Wisconsin coach Pete Waite said he'll go with fifth-year senior Katie Lorenzen.
"We have today and tomorrow to get Katie used to the team again," Waite said yesterday. "It's not like she's a freshman. She's been in the program, has had some good wins for us.
"For us, it's a matter of getting her comfortable with the team and used to this humidity. It's like this for us in the summer but it hasn't been summer for us in a while. We need to stay hydrated."
Although it's just an exhibition, Hawaii doesn't lack for inspiration when taking on Wisconsin. The Badgers handed the Wahine their only loss of the 2004 season, the regional semifinal in Green Bay.
"That was an upsetting loss," Thurlby said. "That alone should motivate us Wednesday."
"I know Hawaii is really happy to be playing us at home and not in Green Bay," Waite said. "We know they have great setting and ball-handling on the court. They're well-coached and they compete hard.
"Most of our starters will be juniors next year and the fans will see a pretty young but experienced team. We're looking forward to playing in front of the great crowd we've heard about. It's a great way to kick off spring break."
This is the first of four competitions for Hawaii. The Wahine also will compete Saturday in a tournament hosted by Brigham Young-Hawaii, and two mainland tournaments: Loyola-Chicago's April 8 and Loyola Marymount's April 22.
"It's nice that we're able to play this early and be able to assess where we are," Shoji said.
"It gives you an idea of where you need to improve. We kind of have an idea but it's nice to see it on the court."
"We have question marks as far as who starts, but not question marks in terms of ability. We have three outstanding middles (Juliana Sanders, Kari Gregory and Nickie Thomas) and one (high school senior Amber Kaufman of San Jose, Calif.) coming in.
"We have to find a libero and we have a number of candidates there. And we need to tighten up on our skills. Everybody's got to get better. We'll see how much progress we can make in the next six months."