Wahine are close to being good, but far from being great
DAVE Shoji was sitting quietly before practice, answering questions about what happened and where they go now. He was saying that last weekend, his Rainbow Wahine could have won all three of those matches. Which is true, of course. But sticklers are sure to point out that Hawaii opened its 2007 volleyball season a surprising 1-2.
"Game 1 against Michigan, just throw that out," Shoji said.
His team did not play badly the rest of the way, in that one. It was a tough loss. But not a bad one.
OK. What happened against Oregon State?
Well, the Wahine were in position to win the first game, but then didn't, they lost it. Confidence went with it.
"We lost our spirit," Shoji said. "That can happen very quickly in athletics."
So here is team captain Tara Hittle, on getting it back.
"If you always win, you always think you're fine," Hittle said. "You don't think you ever need to change anything."
The Rainbow Wahine do not have that problem heading into tonight's match.
SO WHERE ARE THEY? How close to being where they want to be, where they need to be, how far away?
Those of us who follow a national power aren't used to asking these kind of questions so early, after the opening weekend. After matches against Oregon State.
Every year, things always get exposed, in those first few matches. It's just that this time they were, um, exposed exposed.
So what's the answer?
"We're not that far off from where we want to be right now," Shoji said. "But from where we want to be at the end of the season, we're very far away."
OK, good answer.
He does have players. But they're pieces. The thing is getting the best of each of them, getting something from all of them -- the right lineup, the right mix, finding out who your team is.
"The best combination of all their positives," Shoji called it. This is coaching. Shoji's been trying to figure this stuff out anew every season for the past 30 years.
So how long does that take to come together?
The coach allowed himself a small laugh.
"Hopefully it's sooner than later," he said.
It takes tweaking, he said, but the field coming in this weekend -- Kansas State, Louisville and (dramatic music) UCLA -- these are not teams you want to face while still tweaking, still searching.
Things can happen quickly in athletics.
But Hittle isn't worried. Hittle is still smiling, still delivering hugs and stomach-punch combinations to friends on the UCLA team. The participants see this stuff differently than most of the rest of us. They aren't just witnesses, they are in it, this is happening to them.
We can be alarmed. She just wants another shot.
"What a great time to have our weaknesses shown," Hittle said. "Might as well (happen now)."
She is right. That's one way to look at it. If you're going to get jarring notice that you've still got a lot of stuff to work on, it's a lot better to have it happen early than late.