RAINBOW WAHINE VOLLEYBALL
Wahine swept in exhibition
The volleyball version of March Madness was alive and well at the Stan Sheriff Center last night.
How else to explain 2,624 fans showing up for a spring exhibition between two rebuilding teams not at full strength and looking forward to fall.
Still, the Rainbow Wahine faithful were there, getting their first glimpse of what life without All-America setter Kanoe Kamana'o will be like.
Redshirt freshman setter Dani Mafua acquitted herself well ... as did a makeshift Hawaii lineup that had more potential starters rehabbing injuries than playing, and more defensive specialists than viable outside hitters.
The Wahine did have sophomore All-American hitter Jamie Houston, fresh off her tryout for the USA A2 team ... but not much else. Houston had 24 of Hawaii's 44 kills and 12 of its 58 digs, but Arizona had better balance in a 30-26, 39-37, 30-24 victory.
Freshman hitter Whitney Dosty led Arizona with 17 kills, with freshman Alanna Resch adding 13 kills and 18 digs.
"Things could have gone a little bit better but, having just 10 players and maybe three practices, I'd rate tonight an A-minus," said Mafua, who finished with 33 assists and 10 digs. "It was good to have Jamie, but it would have helped to have a few more options. Our passing could have been a little better."
Wahine coach Dave Shoji was happy despite the outcome after 1 hour and 49 minutes.
GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM
A depleted University of Hawaii women's volleyball team was swept at last night's exhibition match with Arizona at the Stan Sheriff Center. Above, Kari Gregory tried to get a kill past Wildcats Whitney Dosty and Jacy Norton. CLICK FOR LARGE
"You can see Mafua is going to be a great setter," Shoji said. "She just needs to work on her technique.
"We tried to keep it simple tonight. We knew we were going to have to set Houston a lot, she probably got too many swings. There were a lot of things happening out there, some of it good. It's spring and it's time to work on your mistakes. We knew we were going to have a difficult time winning this one."
But the Wahine nearly did win Game 2, leading by as much as 23-19. The Wildcats rallied to take what would be the first of nine game points at 29-26.
Hawaii fended off eight, while having two swings at ending it, the last at 37-36. An ace by Resch gave the Wildcats a 38-37 lead and it ended when Sarah Mason hit wide.
"We're young and we wanted to provide a match-type environment for our players," Arizona coach Dave Rubio said. "It doesn't get any better than this. I don't think it was about a win or a loss for either Dave (Shoji) or me. I thought we played some good transition volleyball and we knew Dave's squad was pretty banged up. But we showed we were better than we were at the end of the year (when missing the NCAA tournament for the first time in 11 years)."
Rubio was especially impressed with Houston.
"She is unbelievable," he said. "One of the top left-side hitters in the country, a really nice athlete and it's only a matter of time before she'll be in the tradition of great hitters Hawaii has had like Teee Williams, Therese Crawford, Kim Willoughby."
Kamana'o made brief appearances, much to the delight of the crowd. She served once in Game 2 and was part of a 6-2 offense late in Game 3, coming up with one of Hawaii's eight aces.
Note: Incoming freshman Amanda Simmons, a 6-foot-3 middle blocker from Des Plaines, Ill., is the only player committed to Hawaii named to Volleyball magazine's Fab 50 list. Simmons is also 57th on prepvolleyball.com's Senior Ace list. Punahou senior Liz Ka'aihue, who has also committed to the Rainbow Wahine, is No. 85.