RAINBOW WAHINE VOLLEYBALL
Wahine to start WACky schedule
UH has a stretch of seven matches in 11 days in October
And then there's this season's conference schedule for the Hawaii women's volleyball team.
Seven matches in 11 days. That itinerary is a road trip to Louisiana Tech and New Mexico sandwiched between homestands of three matches in four days and two matches on consecutive nights.
Who: Fresno State (2-10, 0-1) at No. 15 Hawaii (6-4, 0-0)
Where: Stan Sheriff Center
When: Tomorrow, 7 p.m. (Alumnae match, 5 p.m.)
TV: KFVE (Ch. 5)
Radio: KKEA, 1420-AM
Series: Hawaii leads 37-0
Call it "The Hunt for Dead October."
"It's going to be a lot of playing in a short time," senior Cayley Thurlby said. "There's some really crazy things going on this year with that. But there's been crazy things happening already this year with us. I guess it's a year of adapting."
Hawaii has already had to adapt to a number of lineups, partly to season-ending injuries to junior hitter Tara
Hittle and sophomore middle Nickie Thomas, partly due to various problems that had three returning starters -- senior setter Kanoe Kamana'o, senior hitter Sarah Mason and junior middle Juliana Sanders -- sidelined at different times earlier in the season.
"But if there's any program in our conference that can handle having people hurt, it's Hawaii," New Mexico State coach Mike Jordan said. "It's got to be traumatic to lose two players, but they've got so much talent and depth, it's still going to be tough to beat them.
"I feel we've got the best shot. We're healthy, we're more experienced than last year and we're a year better."
Jordan's Aggies took the Wahine to five twice last year, their first season in the Western Athletic Conference, only to lose both. New Mexico State (15-0) was voted to finish second in the WAC in the preseason coaches poll, behind 10-time defending champion Hawaii, and is ranked for the first time in school history this week (24th).
UH puts its 107-match WAC winning streak -- the longest active streak in the country -- on the line tomorrow night against Fresno State. The Wahine, holding a 37-0 series edge against the Bulldogs, then make their first road trip of the season next week ... to Fresno State.
"The schedule is a little quirky this year and I'm not sure why," Hawaii coach Dave Shoji said. "We have to play a bunch of matches in a very few days, but then we get a pretty good break.
"We'll have to take advantage of that break when we have it. It's the second stage of the season and we're going to have to shift gears."
That doesn't mean putting it into cruise control after the very tough preseason schedule that included seven contests against five Top 25 teams. Although Hawaii is 141-1 in regular-season WAC matches, "We still have a target on our back," Thurlby said. "We're still the team to beat."
The consensus is it will be Hawaii and New Mexico State ... and then everyone else. Expected to lead the next group are Nevada and San Jose State; the Wolf Pack won the first showdown between the two teams in four games last night.
"I think for sure the league has improved," Jordan said. "Some of the teams that finished in the bottom last year are better, such as Boise State and Louisiana Tech.
"I don't think Utah State is going to be as good because of losses to graduation and their coach (Burt Fuller, now at Utah) and I'm surprised about Idaho's start (1-9). Nevada's got enough returning talent to be in the mix and you knew San Jose State would be a lot better as their young players got better."
Shoji was in agreement about the Spartans.
"They've played a good schedule and Craig (Choate) is a very good coach," Shoji said. "They took (No. 9) Santa Clara to five. That tells me they're a good ballclub."
Prior to last night's 3-1 loss to Nevada, all of San Jose State's defeats had been in five. Two -- Santa Clara and CSU Northridge -- came after the Spartans led 2-0 and the other two -- San Francisco and UC Santa Barbara -- saw the Spartans up 2-1 before falling.
In that loss to Santa Clara, senior libero Jessie Shull broke her own WAC record for digs in a five-game match. She had 45 against the Broncos.
Hawaii was the only team not in action on the opening night of WAC play, but the Wahine soon will be very busy. They host Utah State on Oct. 6, Nevada on Oct. 8 and Boise State on Oct. 9, are at Louisiana Tech on Oct. 11 and New Mexico State on Oct. 13, before returning home for matches against Notre Dame on Oct. 16-17.