NCAA WOMEN'S VOLLEYBALL
SB FILE / AUGUST 2005
UH coach Dave Shoji is happy Hawaii fans will get to fill the Stan Sheriff Center seats for an NCAA regional later this year.
Hawaii gets women's NCAA regional
Shoji says the move rewards UH's large attendance numbers
It appears that the NCAA finally has a clue when it comes to women's volleyball.
What the coaches association had hoped for became a reality yesterday when the NCAA announced its four regional sites for this year's tournament. Hawaii, Washington, Texas and Florida were named for the Dec. 8-9 competition.
This will be the first postseason women's volleyball matches at the Stan Sheriff Center since the 2003 regional. Hawaii has led the country in attendance every year since moving to the Sheriff Center in 1994, averaging more than 7,000 fans in each of the 11 years in the facility.
"I'm not surprised," Rainbow Wahine coach Dave Shoji said yesterday.
"There's been a movement within our coaching ranks to move in this direction. I think everybody wants to see our sport showcased and it wasn't last year.
"The coaches thought our sport was hurt with the sites that were chosen. At some, there was less than 500. Teams need to be rewarded for their attendance numbers. I think that should be one of the selection criteria."
Last year's regionals were held at Penn State, Stanford, Texas A&M and Omaha, Neb., site of this year's final four. Only Penn State and Nebraska made it back home to the regional semifinal.
Only the Huskers advanced to the final four, drawing an NCAA-record crowd of 15,182 at its home-away-from-home, the Qwest Center, for their elite eight match against Florida. Just 279 came to the Washington-Wisconsin regional final at Texas A&M.
Hosting a regional does not automatically give Hawaii the first- and second-round matches.
The Rainbow Wahine have been sent on the road for the first two rounds the past two seasons despite their ranking and record: No. 1 and 28-0 in 2004, No. 8 and 25-6 last season.
"I don't know what this means for the first two rounds," Shoji said. "I don't know if the (selection) criteria has changed but I'm optimistic. It doesn't guarantee that we'll win (the regional) but I'd be happy not having to travel if we get to the regional.
"I'm not happy because it gives us an edge, I'm happy that people will actually come to watch. I think it's good for the sport and it's a great award for our loyal following."
Hawaii has hosted at least one NCAA tournament match in 16 of the 24 years the Wahine have been involved. UH last hosted a regional in 2003 -- the first year the NCAA went to predetermined sites -- drawing more than 9,000 on both competition days. The Wahine advanced to the final four in Dallas.
All 18 of Hawaii's home matches last season ranked in the Top 30 in national attendance, as did three of its road matches. UH averaged 7,302 with Nebraska second at 4,376.
Last year, eventual national champion Washington averaged 2,666 at home, ranking sixth. Florida was No. 8 (2,276) and Texas 10th (2,152).