RAINBOW WAHINE SOCCER
Wahine are aiming for tourney berth
The Hawaii Rainbow Wahine soccer team's first priority on its final regular-season road trip is to secure a berth in the Western Athletic Conference tournament.
The top six teams qualify. Fresno State, San Jose State, Utah State and Nevada have already qualified.
Hawaii, in fifth place, needs a win or tie in its final two matches at Nevada and Fresno State to qualify for the tournament. The Wahine (8-8-2 overall, 2-3 WAC) also get in if seventh-place Idaho or eighth-place Louisiana Tech tie or lose this weekend.
The Wahine face Nevada tomorrow and close the regular season on Sunday at Fresno State.
The Wahine have not lost to Nevada (9-4-3, 2-2-1) in six matches, but the Wolf Pack program has turned around the past two seasons. Nevada has eight shutouts and has outscored opponents 29-11.
Sophomore striker Karen Zmirak is the big gun for the Wolf Pack with 10 goals and three assists.
Freshman Caitlin Holmes and junior Jen Mavis share Nevada's goalkeeping duties and have a combined 0.65 goals-allowed average.
The Wahine have outshot their 18 opponents 282-159 and continue to pressure defenses with scoring opportunities. But they've scored on just 9 percent of their shots. Opponents have put 13 percent of their attempts into the UH net.
The Hawaii offense relies on a passing game. The players need to see the open lanes, and players without the ball have to anticipate the pass. Unfortunately, many times a player with the ball will one-touch a pass without looking, expecting a teammate to be there. If the teammate makes a different run or the lane closes, the no-look pass is wasted.
The Wahine defense will be a patchwork affair.
Senior defender Kelly McCloskey, who hoped to rehab enough to play again, is not making the trip. Junior defender Lehua Wood will have surgery on Nov. 2 to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament and medial lateral meniscus.
"We will use Julia Siljestrom or Emma Makepa-Foley or Larilyn Alota or Emily Chun in the back line. It will be a game-time decision," said UH coach Pinsoom Tenzing.
Chun also may play at a striker spot to start matches in place of Ambree Ako.
Ako did return against San Jose State from a sprained right ankle, but is still not 100 percent healthy.
"We have to think long and hard before we put Ambree into a match before the (WAC) tournament," said Tenzing, who wants the freshman striker as healthy as possible for the postseason.
"We've had success at Nevada, but they had a good recruiting class two years ago and this is the same team. The cold, more than anything else (such as altitude), might bother us since we play at night."