RAINBOW WAHINE VOLLEYBALL
Wahine eyeing top seed in WAC tourney
The seasons are about to change.
From regular season to postseason. From the Western Athletic Conference to the NCAA.
Hawaii has to be prepared for whatever Mother Nature, the WAC and the NCAA volleyball selection committee throw at the team over the next two weeks. The Rainbow Wahine, moving up a spot to No. 13 in yesterday's national poll, hope that this trip will be the last before heading to the final four in five weeks.
NO. 13 HAWAII AT BOISE STATE
When: Tomorrow, 4 p.m. Hawaii time
Series: Hawaii leads 12-0
Next up: At Idaho, Friday, 5 p.m. Hawaii time
To create that scenario -- one which has Hawaii home for the first two rounds as well as winning the Honolulu regional -- the Wahine likely will have to win next week's WAC tournament in Reno, Nev., to be home for those first two matches. The Stan Sheriff Center is one of four predetermined NCAA regional sites Dec. 8-9, and the Wahine would rather be playing on the court than playing host to four other teams.
But first things first. Hawaii needs to keep its grip on the WAC lead when closing out the regular season at Boise State tomorrow and Idaho on Friday. Two victories give the Wahine the No. 1 seed into next week's tournament as well as their 11th consecutive WAC regular-season championship.
"The way we played (Sunday) prepares us for a long two weeks on the road," senior Cayley Thurlby said. "We played very steady and continued to improve on the things we've been working on.
"It's not an easy road for us and we have to be prepared for a worst-case scenario (of being shipped out for the first two rounds). But we have to control what we can control and that's taking control of what's on our side of the court."
Hawaii left last night for Boise, minus coach Dave Shoji, who remained here to watch his younger son's first match tonight in the state boys volleyball tournament. Erik Shoji is a junior libero for top-seeded Punahou.
The Wahine coach was still smiling after Sunday's victory over New Mexico State, which dropped a spot to 21st in yesterday's poll. The biggest concern going into the match was Hawaii's ability to stop the potent Aggies offense, something the Wahine were able to do with 15 blocks -- junior Kari Gregory in on a career-tying high 11 -- and impressive defense that had four players in double-digit digs in winning that battle 68-52.
"I'm very happy, especially with our blocking," said Shoji, who'll join the team tomorrow prior to the match. "There was great attention to the details in the game plan we had. Kari had a huge match, six blocks in Game 1 alone. We've always known she had that kind of potential.
"We're feeling confident and we played pretty close to our potential Sunday, but the focus right now is the road trip. We'll concentrate on Boise then Idaho."
Boise State (11-15, 4-9) hosts three matches this week as the Broncos inch up into becoming the No. 6 seed in next week's tournament. Broncos face Hawaii tomorrow, Utah State (13-16, 6-8) on Thursday and Nevada (15-12, 9-5) on Saturday.
Boise State has won two of its last three matches, but both came against the bottom teams in the WAC: Fresno State and Louisiana Tech. First-year coach Robin Davis has kept his sense of humor this season.
"How is Boise State, ranked No. 135, going to compete with Hawaii, No. 13?" he asked. "How are we defeating them? With a perfect night for us and a sub-par, double-bogey night for them."
Davis said he wasn't surprised by the scores of Sunday's Hawaii-NMSU match.
"On most nights, I think UH is going to be too powerful for NMSU," he said. "But I think NMSU can be a more steady team."
Hawaii and New Mexico State have already clinched the top two seeds for next week and most expect the two teams to meet in next Friday's championship. If play ended today, the Wahine would play the winner of the Fresno State-Louisiana Tech play-in match and host Nevada would be playing in the other side of the bracket.
"There isn't much difference in being No. 1 or 2," Shoji said of the seeding. "But I'd prefer not playing Nevada at home."
The Wolf Pack (15-12, 9-5) are barely holding on to third place and swap opponents with Hawaii this week, playing at Idaho tomorrow and Boise State Saturday. Nevada struggled last week, losing at BYU and Utah State.
Nebraska still No. 1:
Nebraska (23-1) remained No. 1 in yesterday's poll despite losing its first match of the season, at unranked Colorado in five. The loss split up the first-place votes among the top three teams: Nebraska with 40, Washington (22-3) with 15 and Stanford (21-3) with five. USC (23-3) jumped two spots to fourth after its sweep of Stanford, and Penn State (25-2) slipped two spots to fifth following its loss to then-No. 23 Ohio State.