TONY AVELAR / SPECIAL TO THE STAR-BULLETIN
UH senior Sarah Mason has combined with teammate Jamie Houston to record more than 10 kills per game in WAC play.
Busy week for UH
Hawaii faces Utah State tomorrow to open a stretch of three matches over the next four days
Hard ... but not too hard.
Gain ... hopefully without too much pain.
At Stan Sheriff Center
Tomorrow: Utah State (10-9, 3-2) at No. 15 Hawaii, 7 p.m.
Sunday: Nevada (9-6, 3-0) at Hawaii, 4 p.m.
Monday: Boise State (7-8, 1-2) at Hawaii, 7 p.m.
Radio: All matches live, 1420-AM
TV: All matches live, KFVE (Ch. 5)
The three-matches-in-four-days schedule has subtly altered the practice schedule for the 15th-ranked Hawaii volleyball team this week. After returning from their first road trip of the season Sunday, the Rainbow Wahine went hard Monday and Tuesday, cutting back on skill sessions as well as overall time by about 30 minutes. They also took yesterday off before heading back to the gym this afternoon.
"Looking at the next two weeks, we had to come up with a plan," UH coach Dave Shoji said. "It's not that we can't get our work in but we still have to conserve energy. We're going hard but we still need the rest.
"The three times in four nights is not the greatest schedule but we have to deal with it."
Not only is there the 3-in-4, starting with tomorrow's match with Utah State, there's also the 7-in-11, which includes next week's trip to Louisiana Tech and New Mexico State before coming back home for a Monday-Tuesday series with Notre Dame.
But first things first, and that's the Aggies, who were swept last night by Nevada in Reno, 30-25, 30-23, 30-16. Junior hitter Amanda Orgill Nielson had 19 kills and freshman hitter Hailey Jeppson added 10 for USU (10-9, 3-2), hitting .094 and being outblocked 12-4.5.
Although this is coach Grayson DuBose's first season with the Aggies, he is no stranger to the Stan Sheriff Center. For the past four seasons, DuBose was an assistant for the Brigham Young men's team that traveled four times to Honolulu, including the trip in 2004 that culminated in the NCAA title.
"This trip will be a little different than when I was with the men," DuBose said. "Since we only play once, it is a pretty quick turnaround. I am looking forward to coming back to Hawaii. It is a beautiful place and the support is unlike anything else in the country.
"We know that Hawaii is an excellent team that has great athletes and is well-coached. Our approach has been to do everything we can to win the serve and serve-receive battle. That is where matches are won and lost."
Hawaii has survived being tested in those two areas, particularly last week on the road when extending the nation's longest conference win streak to 110. The Wahine were aced 18 times in two matches, eight by Fresno State and 10 by San Jose State.
"We had some really good moments on the trip but we also had lapses in passing," Shoji said. "In most cases, we had enough of a lead that it didn't hurt us. We made passes when we had to."
And Hawaii has blocked well, too. Coming into this week, UH led the WAC in blocks per game (4.44), followed by Utah State (3.68) and Nevada (2.79), with Wahine junior middles Juliana Sanders and Kari Gregory ranked first and third in blocks in WAC-only matches.
"The biggest concerns for me are the great athletes that Hawaii has and their size at the net," DuBose said. "They seem to reload each year. I know they have had some unfortunate injuries, but they have great players waiting in the wings to step up and they will play well.
"For us to do well we need to have ball control. When we are in system, we have a nice offense. The question becomes how much time do we spend in system?"
Hawaii continues to work on staying in system, which hasn't been easy when using eight different lineups in the first 11 matches. But the Wahine have begun to settle into a routine and a rhythm.
In WAC play, senior Sarah Mason and sophomore Jamie Houston are combining for more than 10 kills per game from the left side and juniors Juliana Sanders and Kari Gregory have been very solid in the middle, with a combined average of five kills and four blocks per game.
There's also the versatile options of sophomore Jessica Keefe, who has played both right- and left-side, and freshman Amber Kaufman, used on both the right and in the middle.
Playing consecutive nights is nothing new to Hawaii, which has had back-to-back matches three times this season. There was also the stretch in early September where the Wahine had six matches in nine days when playing three days in a row in two tournaments.
"It's going to be pretty hard," Kaufman said. "I think the (preseason) tournaments helped out a lot. I think we'll be fine."
Note: Both Utah State and Nevada have former island prep players. On the Wolf Pack roster are junior defensive specialist Randy Salis (Kamehameha) and freshman hitter Lelani Kleman-Maeva (Aiea), the latter who is redshirting. Playing for the Aggies is junior middle/opposite Monarisa Ale (Kahuku).