NCAA gives Wahine something to play for
RENO, Nev. » The odds that Hawaii will host the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament next week are better than those of winning the Megabucks jackpot here. But if the 12th-ranked Rainbow Wahine were among the top four seeds, they would be guaranteed to stay home under a new policy recently instituted by the NCAA Championships Committee.
The policy will affect all sports, not just women's volleyball, according to UH associate athletic director Marilyn Moniz-Kaho'ohanohano, a committee member. She said the top four seeds will be "protected" and remain at home for the first two rounds.
Hawaii, which will host one of four predetermined regional sites Dec. 8-9, has not hosted a subregional since 2003. The Rainbow Wahine were 28-0 and seeded third in 2004 but shipped to Colorado State for the first two rounds. Last year, Hawaii was 25-6 and seeded seventh and was assigned to Austin, Texas. Both years, Hawaii advanced to the regional, only to lose its opening match.
Hawaii's victory over Fresno State last night has the Rainbow Wahine on the path to their seventh straight WAC tournament title. Hawaii is 23-2 in tournament play, with both losses coming to BYU in the championship matches of 1996 and 1997. (No tournament was held in 1999 and 2000.)
Thanksgiving week and the WAC tournament will not conflict next season, as they have the past two seasons. New Mexico State has expressed an interest in hosting next year.
The tournament has been held at Nevada since 2002. Hawaii will not make a bid for next year due to a conflict with the basketball schedules, but Moniz-Kaho'ohano says she is seriously looking at 2008.
Only three schools have hosted the tournament: UNLV (1996-98), San Jose State (2001) and Nevada (2002-06). There was no tournament in 1999 or 2000.
Home, sweet home:
New Mexico State ranks 16th in national attendance, helped by last week's season-high crowd of 3,397 that saw the Aggies defeat San Jose State at the newly renovated Pan American Center.
NMSU, averaging 1,830 fans per match, played all but the last two home matches at Las Cruces High, with a capacity of 2,800.
For the 12th consecutive year, Hawaii is the attendance leader, averaging 7,062; Wisconsin is a distant second at 2,500.
The Rainbow Wahine drew a season-high 8,611 for the final home match against New Mexico State for 141,042 for the year. All 20 of Hawaii's home matches are ranked among the top 25 nationally, with the match against the Aggies the second-highest, behind the 12,112 that watched Creighton against Nebraska Sept. 24.
For the record:
Hawaii is part of 20 WAC tournament single-match records, including 11 from the 1998 championship marathon against BYU that lasted an NCAA-record 3 hours and 31 minutes. Among the marks set against BYU: Nikki Hubbert
, 95 assists; and team records in kills (116), attempts (316), assists (107), digs (118), solo blocks (9) and hitting errors (63).
Only twice has the top seed not won this event, with Hawaii and BYU involved in both matches. The second-seeded Cougars upset the Wahine in 1996 and the second-seeded Wahine returned the favor in 1998.