Wahine look to extend win streak
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There's no turning back the clock on this season. But Dave Shoji sure would like to have that season-opening match against Michigan back.
Back on Aug. 24, the Hawaii volleyball coach saw his team fall behind 0-2 against the Wolverines, rally to force Game 5 and have two swings at winning the match before losing the last set 18-16.
"We're a way different team than we were that first night," Shoji said. "I still think we should have won that one. It would be nice to play Michigan now."
Instead, the No. 12-ranked Rainbow Wahine (11-3, 5-0) will see Nevada (7-6, 4-2) tomorrow in Hawaii's first home match in 20 days.
Since the Stan Sheriff Center faithful last saw them, the Wahine have extended their winning streak to eight with three consecutive road wins, including a big victory at New Mexico State in five.
Hawaii fans can't settle down into their seats just yet. Following Sunday's 5 p.m. match against Fresno State, the Wahine hit the road for another four matches before returning to host No. 22 New Mexico State on Oct. 26.
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The alphabet that is Hawaii volleyball has begun to spell success. It's been a combination of A-game and D (as in defense) with a lot 'C's in between (consistency, communication and chemistry) that has the 12th-ranked Rainbow Wahine riding an eight-match winning streak.
Nevada (7-6, 4-2 WAC) at Hawaii (11-3, 5-0)7
» Tomorrow, 7 p.m.
» Stan Sheriff Center
» TV: KFVE, Ch. 5
» Radio: KKEA, 1420-AM
» Internet: htsportsnet.com
Hawaii (11-3, 5-0 WAC) now looks to add to its home conference winning streak beginning with tomorrow's match against Nevada. The Wahine have won 92 consecutive Western Athletic Conference home matches, 103 in a row when including home Big West contests.
"I'm excited to be back in front of our fans again," UH sophomore setter Stephanie Brandt said. "We've made a lot of progress since the season started. We're becoming smarter, identifying what to do with certain sets in certain circumstances.
"I think the challenges ahead are to keep getting better, continue being smart and play consistent."
Constancy has been the bane of Nevada, according to coach Devin Scruggs.
Her Wolf Pack have won their last three, all on the road, but "we've been so up and down," she said.
"Usually the road hasn't been good to us. Last week, we swept both San Jose State and Fresno State in three for the first time since I've been here (10 years)."
A Scruggs-coached Nevada team also has never beaten Hawaii, although the Wolf Pack came close several times. The teams went to five twice in 2004, with the Wahine needing to win Games 4 and 5 to pull out the wins.
As for tomorrow's meeting, "I think it looks like Hawaii is getting better and better," Scruggs said. "They are extremely athletic and they have a number of weapons they can use.
"The toughest matchup will probably be if (Jamie) Houston is on and hits over our setter."
Houston was definitely on during the past road trip, where she had a combined 75 kills in the three victories, including 29 in the five-set win at New Mexico State.
She also hit a career-high .605 at San Jose State with 24 kills and one error in 38 swings.
Of concern for the Wahine on the other side of the net are Nevada seniors Karly Sipherd (3.66 kpg, 1.21 kpg) and Teal Ericson (4.89 kpg). Freshman middle Lindsay Baldwin (2.29 kpg, 1.32 bpg) is this season's nice surprise, according to Scruggs.
"Lindsay is leading our team in blocks and doing a great job on offense as well," Scruggs said. "It's definitely nice to see her make the transition from club to Division I."
Also making the transition for the Wolf Pack is freshman hitter Kylie Harrington (St. Francis '07), who missed several early matches with a broken hand.
"Kylie is doing great," Scruggs said. "She is still getting her timing down, and her defense is improving. She provided a greatly needed offensive threat this last weekend against San Jose (five kills, no errors, nine swings). I look for her to do that against Hawaii as well."
This is Nevada's third consecutive week on the road. The Wahine, who haven't played at home since Sept. 15 can relate; following Sunday's match against Fresno State, Hawaii is back on the road for four matches and won't play at home again until Oct. 26.
This past road trip was a good measuring stick for his team, Wahine coach Dave Shoji said.
"I've seen quite a bit of progress the past few matches," he said. "Obviously, you look at the results (3-0). That's one of our measurements, a good indication of our progress.
"And all the skills and stats and data figure into it. We're a much different team that when we first started the season, a much-improved team. But we need to get better at all skills. We work on them every day."
Notes: Freshman hitter Stephanie Ferrell sprained her right ankle late during Monday's practice. She is in a walking boot and is not expected to practice the rest of the week. ... The 110 digs against New Mexico State was a school rally score record for a five-game match. ... Former Wahine Melody Eckmier Studer gave birth to a baby girl Sept. 20. Her older sister Angela Eckmier Ule, who played at UCLA, gave birth 3 hours later to a baby boy.