RAINBOW WAHINE VOLLEYBALL
Wahine lose Thomas for season
The sophomore middle has a torn ACL and expects to have surgery in the next few weeks
The roller-coaster ride that has become the Hawaii women's volleyball season continued yesterday with an up, a down and a big curve.
On the same day that senior setter Kanoe Kamana'o picked up weekly honors from the Western Athletic Conference, the Rainbow Wahine (6-4) slipped three spots in the national poll and lost another player for the season due to injury.
Sophomore middle Nickie Thomas said yesterday that the injury to her right knee has been diagnosed as a torn ACL. It happened during Game 1 of last Thursday's match against Cal Poly, in what was her third start of the season.
"I will miss the rest of this season," Thomas said in a statement released through the athletic department, "but plan on making a full recovery in time to play next season. We are probably looking to have my surgery in the next few weeks."
Thomas attended yesterday's practice, wearing a knee brace and using crutches. She was averaging 2.45 kills and hitting .350 with five aces.
Already sidelined with a season-ending stress fracture is junior hitter Tara Hittle. She said
last week she anticipates petitioning for a medical hardship waiver that would restore her junior season and allow her two years of eligibility.
A medical hardship waiver is a likely scenario in Thomas' case as well.
The loss of the two players does limit Hawaii's options in terms of a lineup but "our lineup has been in flux the whole fall," Wahine coach Dave Shoji said. "We still have a few options but sometimes it helps not to have as many options.
"There's something to be said about a set lineup. Hopefully, the lineup we have now is the one we can work on and can use the rest of the year."
Shoji had planned on redshirting freshman middle Amber Kaufman but the loss of Thomas ended that. Kaufman played in Games 4 and 5 against Cal Poly on Saturday, finishing with three kills.
"We hadn't been seriously looking at her in the lineup before," Shoji said, "but now we will."
Kamana'o heads into Saturday's WAC season opener with Fresno State as the reigning player of the week, the second of her career. She had 69 assists in the win over the Mustangs on Friday, the most in the WAC this season, as well as 13 digs, five blocks and five kills.
"We've had some awesome competition early in the season," Kamana'o said. "We have learned from every match. Going into the WAC, we'll still be learning.
"It's not an easy road for us. Every team comes in wanting to beat Hawaii. We just have to stick to our basics, do what we do in practice and do it out on the court."
Last week's split with Cal Poly dropped Hawaii from 12th to 15th, while it moved the Mustangs up two spots to No. 21.
Making their first appearance in the poll as a WAC member is No. 24 New Mexico State (14-0). It is the first time since the final poll of 2001 that two WAC teams have been ranked.
"They should be ranked," Shoji said. "We thought they should have been ranked last year, then they were slighted by the NCAA (selection committee).
"I feel pretty good about going into the WAC. I think a lot of people have their doubts about us but I don't."
Hawaii puts the longest current conference winning streak in the nation (107) on the line Saturday at 7 p.m. against Fresno State. Hawaii is just the second team in NCAA history to win 100 consecutive conference matches, the other being Florida (145, broken in 2004).
The Rainbow Wahine alumnae match begins at 5 p.m.