RAINBOW WAHINE VOLLEYBALL
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Rainbow Wahine senior Cayley Thurlby is not lacking in motivation for today's match.
Thurlby earned upcoming trip home
Coach Shoji shows his indebtedness by bringing UH to an Illinois tournament
When Dave Shoji was recruiting Cayley Thurlby, the Hawaii women's volleyball coach told the Naperville, Ill., resident that, as a Rainbow Wahine, her career would include a trip back home to play in front of family and friends.
It was something he did for Therese Crawford (Michigan) and Kim Willoughby (Louisiana). It's something he'll do for Thurlby in a few weeks when Hawaii travels to Loyola-Chicago's tournament on April 8, about a 30-mile drive east from her hometown.
WISCONSIN AT HAWAII
When: Today, 7 p.m.
Where: Stan Sheriff Center
Tickets: $3 to $10
"Unfortunately, we couldn't fit it in during the regular season," Shoji said. "It's just too difficult to get there during the WAC season, it's kind of out of the way.
"Cayley is so deserving of this. She's done a lot for the program. She's a real giver and anything I can do to help her, to reward her, I'll do. She deserves to be on the court, has put in so many hours and is such a positive player. She'll have a role this season."
Thurlby has more than paid her dues. A highly-recruited setter, she red-shirted in 2002 and then found herself playing behind All-American Kanoe Kamana'o the past three years.
There was no grumbling, no thoughts of transferring. Instead, Thurlby made herself indispensable as a utility player. Besides setting, she's seen time the past three seasons as a back-row specialist, a libero and even a right-side hitter.
It's possible that fans will see Thurlby playing at least two different positions tonight when Hawaii takes on Wisconsin in its spring exhibition.
"It doesn't matter what position I'm playing as long as I'm on the court," the 5-foot-11 Thurlby said. "I want to be ready for any position ... libero, right side ... you never know.
"I'm excited about Wisconsin. It's always fun to play a Midwest team for me. I know some of their players and it's always nice to see familiar faces on the other team. Plus I have two friends in town for their spring break, so they'll get to see me play."
The closest Thurlby has come to home was in 2004 when the Wahine were sent by the NCAA to the Green Bay regional, about a four-hour trek north for her relatives and friends. Hawaii took on Wisconsin in the regional semifinal, suffering its first loss of the year and ending the season at 30-1.
"I'd say there's a little motivation," Thurlby said of tonight's match.
That Shoji kept his promise said a lot to the incoming senior.
"It's a present for me and upholding his commitment means a lot to me," Thurlby said. "I think it says a lot about this program. That if we work hard, if we give back to the program, he'll give back to us. A lot of girls have that to look forward to.
"We've always stayed on the West Coast for spring tournaments while I've been here, and Dave has made a special exception for me. I can remember when I was a freshman and we went to Louisiana for Kim Willoughby. That was amazing. That's the same kind of feeling I want to enjoy."
The next position Thurlby plans to play is tour guide.
"Cayley is very excited," Kamana'o said. She has everything planned out, all the things we can go see. It's going to be a lot of fun."
Next stop, Laie: Hawaii and Wisconsin will compete Saturday at Brigham Young-Hawaii. Also in the field is Chaminade.
The round-robin tournament starts at 9 a.m. with two courts in use. Matches are three games to 25 points with each game counting as a win.
Schedule done ... sort of: Most of Hawaii's 2006 schedule is set. The holdup is getting the official approval to change three Western Athletic Conference matches to Sunday.
The current WAC schedule has the Wahine playing three home matches on Saturdays that conflict with UH home football games. Affected are matches with Nevada on Oct. 7, San Jose State on Oct. 28, and New Mexico State on Nov. 11.
Although many WAC schools have both football and volleyball playing on the day, those schools have on-campus stadiums that allow fans to easily attend both. Hawaii also has a staffing problem as most of those working in sports information and statistics handle both volleyball and football.
"Last year, it worked out perfect," Shoji said. "We were away almost every single weekend that football was at home. Unfortunately, it didn't happen that way this year."
The conflicts arose when the volleyball schedule was made earlier than that of football, with some football dates unable to change due to national television commitments.
Hawaii opens the season with a series against Pepperdine, Aug. 25-26. The Sept. 1-3 Hawaiian Airlines Classic features Florida, Colorado and UCLA, and the Sept. 7-9 Waikiki Beach Marriott Challenge includes Stanford, Northwestern and Fairfield.
Following a series with Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Sept. 14-15, the Wahine open WAC play at home against Fresno State on Sept. 23. The WAC tournament is scheduled for Nov. 23-25, but a site has not been chosen.