RAINBOW WAHINE VOLLEYBALL
Wahine to face Cal Poly SLO
It was a pretty good rivalry back in the 1980s when Hawaii and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo shared membership and excellence in Pacific Coast Athletic Association/Big West Conference women's volleyball.
The Rainbow Wahine hold a lopsided 26-3 edge in the series with the Mustangs -- this week's opponent -- but for a period of five years their battles nearly rivaled the Hawaii-Pacific matchups.
NO. 23 CAL POLY SLO AT NO. 12 HAWAII
When: Tomorrow & Friday, 7 p.m.
Where: Stan Sheriff Center
TV: Tomorrow, Oceanic 255 PPV ($25 Oahu, $15 neighbor island). Friday, live, KFVE (Ch. 5)
Radio: Live, 1420-AM
From 1985 to 1989, the teams met 15 times with five matches going to five, another four going to four. Among those five-setters were Cal Poly's three victories, including the one in 1989, which brought Hawaii's 55-match winning streak in Klum Gym to a sweaty halt.
Coaching the Mustangs through the 1989 season was Mike Wilton, the current Hawaii men's coach. Defeating the Wahine three times in Klum ranks a distant second to what he considers his best memory of the old gym: that of meeting his future wife, Ku'ulei.
But Wilton savors that 1989 win simply because that edition of the Mustangs weren't as talented as the 1985 team that won twice in five on consecutive nights.
"That team in '85 was a really good volleyball team," Wilton said of the 31-8 squad that was ranked No. 1 for part of the season. "The 1989 team was more the little engine who could. They didn't have the firepower that '85 had but they had a bunch of kids who played well together.
"We probably got the most out of that team. They wouldn't back down from anybody. It didn't matter if they were playing at home or on the road."
Hawaii rebounded from that loss to outlast Cal Poly the next night in five. The teams met again three weeks later in the regional semifinal, again going a tough five with the Wahine rallying from being down 2-1.
Hawaii would lose the next night, also in five, to Long Beach State. It prevented the Wahine from appearing in their third consecutive final four, the NCAA championship that was being played for the first time in Honolulu.
"Cal Poly has always been known as being small and scrappy," Hawaii coach Dave Shoji said. "The team we're playing this week is bigger and scrappy."
And road tested. The Mustangs (6-3) have spent the entire season on the road so far, competing in tournaments hosted by UNLV, Pepperdine and No. 1 Nebraska.
During that time, they've knocked off then-No. 8 Texas and then-No. 20 Louisville, both in five. The Mustangs also lost to host Pepperdine in five, including 16-14 in Game 5.
Leading Cal Poly are sophomore outside hitters Kyle Atherstone (4.31 kpg, 16 aces) and Alicia Wall (4.08 kpg), and junior libero Kristin Jackson (4.82 dpg). In the upset of Texas, Atherstone had 26 kills and Wall 25, and Jackson 23 digs.
"They're going to be formidable," Shoji said.
Much like the Wahine, the Mustangs were swept in their last appearance. It took 92 minutes for top-ranked Nebraska to down Cal Poly 30-23, 30-23, 30-22; that's 2 minutes less than it took Stanford to beat Hawaii Saturday 30-10, 30-22, 30-24.
"I compare Cal Poly to Pepperdine," UH junior middle Kari Gregory said. "We know they're going to come out, ready to play.
"If we show up like we did against Stanford, we're not going to win. But I think it's going to be a lot different this week. The embarrassment, the disappointment of how we lost to Stanford ... it's going to turn our season around."