Wahine return, looking to rebound
It was apropos that Dave Shoji would take in a bit of the Hawaii basketball practice yesterday prior to heading over to Gym I.
The Rainbow Wahine volleyball coach certainly had rebounding on his mind.
His 11th-ranked team has little time to dwell on Sunday's 94-minute loss at No. 1 Nebraska and little time to regroup to take on No. 13 New Mexico State this Friday in a critical Western Athletic Conference match.
"It was disappointing at the time," Shoji said of Sunday's loss that snapped a 13-match winning streak. "We can't start feeling sorry for ourselves at this point of the season. We don't have a choice. We've got to get ready for Friday night.
"That our passing broke down (Sunday) was disappointing. We haven't done that in a while. Their serving was tough but no tougher than we've seen."
Hawaii (16-4, 10-0) expects another tough time against the Aggies (19-3, 10-1), who feature two of the top 10 servers in the WAC in sophomore hitter Krista Altermatt (16 aces) and junior libero Krystal Torres (12). New Mexico State also has three of the top scorers (kills, blocks, aces) in Altermatt, junior hitter Lindsey Yon and senior middle Kim Oguh.
Last month in Las Cruces, the Wahine survived a 3-hour, 3-minute marathon against the Aggies, pulling out a 30-26, 28-30, 30-27, 28-30, 23-21 victory. The teams continue to be as close in ability as the scores indicate.
Last season, New Mexico State ended Hawaii's conference winning streak at 114. The Aggies are now looking to end the Wahine's streak of 105 home conference wins Friday.
"To beat Hawaii in Hawaii is a goal of ours," NMSU coach Mike Jordan said. "We've beaten nationally ranked teams before at our place, at neutral sites ... but we have yet to beat a national power on their home court.
"It's No. 11 vs. No. 13, the two best teams in the conference. It'll be exciting to go there, play in front of their great crowd. It's one of the marquee matches in the conference that comes along only a few times during the season."
There's much on the line for the Wahine, things beyond the home winning streak. There's a matter of confidence and belief in their passing, both of which were severely shaken during their brief time in the Devaney Center.
"We really want to win this one," sophomore setter Stephanie Brandt said. "Although we stayed together as a team (Sunday), we learned that we have to play our game every point. We can't take any time off.
"We can't let teams get runs on us. (At Nebraska), we were down 8-0 in Game 2. No team should get more than two points in a row."
"We've got to rebound, come back and have a good passing night," he said. "Obviously our confidence was shaken and we've got two days to get that back."
Notes: The family homes of the three Hawaii players from southern California -- senior middle Caroline Blood from Long Beach, junior defensive specialist Elise Duggins of Fullerton and Irvine's Brandt -- were not being threatened by the devastating fires. However, Blood said yesterday afternoon that it appeared her family's vacation home near Lake Arrowhead would be destroyed. ... UH freshman hitter Stephanie Ferrell, out since Oct. 1 with a sprained ankle, has been cleared to practice, but only in the back row.