JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Jamie Houston and the Rainbow Wahine hope to rebound from a dismal start of the season last week, when Hawaii lost two of three matches in the ASICS Invitational.
No letup for 1-2 Wahine this week
STORY SUMMARY »
The talent is a given.
The consistency is the key.
The question is if it will come together this week.
Can you dig it?
The Rainbow Wahine return to action this week:
What: Hawaiian Airlines Classic
Where: Stan Sheriff Center
TV: All matches except Saturday pay-per-view; KFVE rebroadcasts, 10 p.m.; No TV for Saturday's match
Radio: All Hawaii matches live, KKEA
Tickets: $3-$19 (No charge for Saturday's match)
The No. 16 Hawaii women's volleyball team tries to atone for a disappointing showing at last week's ASICS Invitation with this week's 20th Hawaiian Airlines Classic.
Some liken it to going from the frying pan into the fire. As competitive as last week's field was, the HAL is another whole level.
Unbeatens No. 25 Kansas State (4-0) and Louisville (3-0), which has enough votes in the poll to come in at 26th.
And perennial visitor UCLA. The No. 5 Bruins are 1-1, with the lone loss at defending national champion Nebraska last Saturday.
"It's going to be a lot more challenging this week," sophomore setter Stephanie Brandt said. "We'll really have to step it up, play with more intensity and be more consistent."
The Rainbow Wahine should be wearing question marks on their practice shirts. No one is guaranteed a starting spot, according to coach Dave Shoji, including at setter, where Brandt continues to battle with freshman Dani Mafua for playing time.
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Rainbow Wahine history came to celebrate the retirement of Hawaii trainer Melody Toth last night. A good number of the 1979 AIAW championship volleyball team showed up to bid aloha to Toth, who is leaving after 30 years.
Hawaiian Airlines Classic
At the Stan Sheriff Center
No. 5 UCLA (1-1) vs. Louisville (3-0), 5 p.m.
No. 25 Kansas State (4-0) at No. 16 Hawaii (1-2), 7 p.m.
Kansas State vs. Louisville, 2 p.m.
Kansas State vs. UCLA, 2:30 p.m.
Louisville at Hawaii, 5 p.m.
UCLA at Hawaii, 5 p.m.
Although the focus was on the past and all the good times, former players couldn't help but comment on the current state of the program.
"I think the best thing would be for them to hold all their practices in Klum Gym," was one suggestion offered.
Yesterday's practice in Gym I was hot enough, both in temperature and competition. Everyone's job is on the line, with heated battles from setter to libero, middle to outside hitter.
The shock of last weekend has worn off, but the memory of the 1-2 start lingers. Nothing will erase that, but winning this week would go a long way to easing some of the pain.
How bad were the losses to unranked Michigan and Oregon State? Consider that it was just the seventh and eighth time that unranked teams defeated Hawaii since the inception of the national poll in 1982 AND the sweep by Oregon State was the only time that an unranked team defeated the Rainbow Wahine in fewer than five games.
Catch more updates on the UH Sports Extra blog
The Wahine can't lose to two unranked teams in this weekend's Hawaiian Airlines Classic. The stacked field consists of two ranked opponents -- No. 5 UCLA and No. 25 Kansas State -- and only one unranked foe -- a 3-0 Louisville squad that is on the verge of breaking into the Top 25.
"I thought coming into the season that this would be the toughest of our three preseason tournaments," Hawaii coach Dave Shoji said. "I haven't changed my mind."
But the Wahine's mind-set needs to change.
"Mentally, we have to be stronger," sophomore hitter Aneli Cubi-Otineru said.
"The practices have been going great and all the things we need to work on are getting better."
The two setters -- sophomore Stephanie Brandt and freshman Dani Mafua -- have the biggest challenge, that of a little more structure when running the offense.
"We're working on a more complex offense and trying to hone all our skills," Brandt said.
Hawaii leads the all-time series with this week's three opponents: 3-0 vs. both K-State and Louisville, 34-30 against UCLA, the longest rivalry in Wahine history.
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hawaii's Jamie Houston and Kari Gregory blocked a kill attempt by Michigan's Veronica Rood during Friday's match.
A look at this week's field:
No. 16 Hawaii (1-2): The Wahine look to rebound from one of the most embarrassing losses in the program's history -- 0-3 to Oregon State on Sunday.
The highlight of the season-opening ASICS Invitational was junior Jamie Houston becoming the 15th Wahine to reach the 1,000-kill mark, and the ninth to do it in her junior season. Houston's total stands at 1,028; Kim Willoughby holds the school record at 2,513.
Just as happened last week, the Hawaii lineup is not set, with coach Dave Shoji saying he was throwing everyone back in the mix to earn their spots. But expect senior Juliana Sanders to be back in the middle. She was the lone Wahine on last week's all-tournament team, hitting .392 and just missing her career high for kills by one with 14 against Michigan last Friday.
No. 25 Kansas State (4-0): The Wildcats are coming off a successful five days during which they were undefeated at the Best Western Shocker Classic over the weekend and won their sixth straight home opener Tuesday with a sweep of Houston.
Junior hitter Nataly Korobkova, who played on Russia's junior national team, made her K-State debut Friday with 26 kills and 11 digs in the five-game upset of then-No. 14 Cal Poly. The 6-foot-3 hitter also had 19 kills and 12 digs in the 3-1 victory over host Wichita State on Saturday evening.
The Wildcats also swept North Texas on Saturday morning. Joining Korobkova on the all-tournament team were junior Megan Farr, who had 10 blocks against Cal Poly, and senior libero Angie Lastra, who had 55 digs during the tournament, 24 against the Mustangs.
Against Houston, the Wildcats had 12 aces.
Louisville (3-0): The Cardinals just missed being in the Top 25, receiving enough votes to be 26th. Louisville won its own Marriott East Invitational by beating Memphis and Tennessee Tech in four and sweeping Coastal Carolina.
The Cardinals' roster is laden with players representing China, Uzbekistan, Latvia, Slovakia, Germany and Russia. Coach Leonid Yelin, in his 11th season, is originally from the USSR.
Named to the all-tournament team was freshman libero Lindsey Mango, who had 46 digs in three matches, including 20 against Memphis.
Junior middle Jana Matiasovska had 21 kills and four aces against Tennessee Tech en route to tournament MVP honors. The 6-5 Matiasovska is averaging 4.18 kills and 1.73 digs per game.
Senior middle Svetlana Dukule is hitting .452 with 3.00 kpg. The Cardinals have used two setters this season: sophomore Samantha Dabbs and senior Elena Pilnikova.
No. 5 UCLA (1-1): The Bruins, who ended the Wahine's season in last year's regional final, split their matches last week at the AVCA Showcase in Omaha, Neb. UCLA swept then-No. 21 Utah before falling to defending national champion and top-ranked Nebraska in four.
Leading the Bruins is junior All-America setter Nellie Spicer, averaging 13.00 assists and 4.14 digs per game. Spicer and junior hitter Ali Daley were named to the Showcase's all-tournament team, with Daley posting double-doubles in both matches (11 kills/13 digs against Utah and 19 kills/18 digs against Nebraska).
Senior Rachell Johnson has taken on the mantel worn so successfully by the graduated Nana Meriwether. She had a career-high 19 kills with four blocks and two aces against the Huskers
This is UCLA's 20th consecutive tournament appearance in Hawaii, where the Bruins are 42-15 overall with seven titles, including last year's HAL championship.