FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Rainbow Wahine coach Dave Shoji was not at practice yesterday because he is in Mexico to watch his son, Erik, play in the World Boys Youth Volleyball Championship.
Wahine stay focused
Even with Shoji out of town, the UH volleyball team keeps its intensity
No Dave Shoji?
No difference in practice intensity.
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The Hawaii women's volleyball team returned to the court after a day off with associate coaches Kari Ambrozich and Mike Sealy running yesterday's single session. Not having the head coach -- in Mexico to watch his son at the World Boys Youth Volleyball Championship -- doesn't change the routine for the Rainbow Wahine.
"We're focused," said Ambrozich, in her 11th year as an assistant.
"After a day off, they have fresher legs and it always helps when the conditions are more comfortable."
Practice returned to the Stan Sheriff Center after several days in Gym I, due to the arena being used for graduation and the Chinese Basketball Association's tryouts.
"If we truly are going to be a championship contender, final four team, a little distraction like Dave not being here can't affect us," said Sealy, beginning his second year. "I think the gym is so competitive right now that the players know they can't take a drill off.
"It's very, very competitive out there. Our setters (Dani Mafua and Stephanie Brandt) are both playing at a high level but need work at playing at that level more consistently. And outside (hitter) will be very interesting. The players did what they had to do during the offseason and we're ahead of where we were last year. We're more physical, more competitive."
The loss of junior middle Nickie Thomas (torn ACL Sunday) has sunk in but this is a team that has lost a number of starters the past two years to serious injury. Hawaii has regrouped each time.
"We're all praying for her, she's a great player and we'll miss her," said junior captain Tara Hittle, who missed most of last season with an injury. "But the team is still very strong and we'll keep working hard."
Freshman outside hitter Stephanie Ferrell returned home to Los Angeles on Tuesday night for a family funeral and is expected to return to Honolulu on Sunday.
The Wahine have eight more practices left before next Friday's opener against Michigan in the second match of the Asics Invitational.