Wahine’s WAC home win streak at stake tomorrow
STORY SUMMARY »
Tomorrow night, for the first time since 1998, two Western Athletic Conference volleyball teams ranked in the top 15 will meet when No. 11 Hawaii hosts No. 13 New Mexico State at the Stan Sheriff Center.
No. 13 New Mexico State (19-3, 10-1) at No. 11 Hawaii (16-4, 10-0)
» Tomorrow, 7 p.m.
» Where: Stan Sheriff Center
» TV: KFVE, Ch. 5
» Radio: KKEA, 1420-AM
» Tickets: $3-$19
» Series: Hawaii leads, 21-1
» Next: Louisiana Tech, 5 p.m. Sunday
What does history have to say about it?
Nine years ago, the team with the lower ranking won: No. 7 Hawaii outlasted No. 6 BYU 13-15, 13-15, 15-2, 15-5, 16-14. But it was also the home team -- Hawaii -- emerging victorious, with the Rainbow Wahine avenging their first WAC defeat, coming a month earlier against the Cougars in Provo.
Hawaii did not lose another regular-season conference match until it traveled to Las Cruces, N.M., last October. The host Aggies won that in five, snapping Hawaii's WAC winning skein at 114.
On the line tomorrow is the Wahine's home conference winning streak, standing at 105, and dating back to a 1994 Big West loss to UC Santa Barbara. The last 94 victories have come in WAC play.
Also on the line is the WAC regular-season title. The Wahine (16-4, 10-0) can just about wrap it up by defeating the Aggies (19-3, 10-1).
"We look at this as playing for a co-championship," NMSU coach Mike Jordan said. "If we lose this one, we're done, because I don't see Hawaii losing any of their matches the rest of the way."
Fans should plan for a long night. Since the Aggies joined the WAC in 2005, their matches against the Wahine have gone to five games four of the six meetings.
Hawaii has a 3-1 record in those, and have won the other two in four games.
FULL STORY »
The taste of defeat is a bitter one.
Hawaii knows it.
New Mexico State knows it.
It's a little fresher in the collective mouths of the Rainbow Wahine, who are coming off a nasty loss at No. 1 Nebraska last Sunday. The scores (30-22, 30-16, 30-24) are as ugly as Hawaii feels it played, hitting .140 and giving up six aces and big runs of points.
"I wanted us to at least play our game to see where we stacked up," Wahine associate coach Mike Sealy said yesterday. "We played so far below our game it was almost like our first weekend. We had a technical breakdown at Nebraska.
"We know we didn't play exceptionally well at New Mexico State, but we did show glimpses of playing at a high level."
Hawaii played well when it counted back on Sept. 22, holding off six match points and making good on its second attempt in winning 30-26, 28-30, 30-27, 28-30, 23-21. It was a vindication of sorts from the last time the Wahine visited Las Cruces and saw their 114-match conference winning streak snapped by falling to the Aggies in five.
That bitter taste has transferred to the other side of the court.
"We're very much looking forward to this one," NMSU coach Mike Jordan said. "We made so many mistakes at the end of that match and we feel we let victory slip through our fingers a number of times."
The loss to Hawaii has been the only slip-up in 13 matches for the Aggies since being swept at No. 1 Nebraska on Sept. 8. Jordan said his team has played its best volleyball since losing to the Huskers, and the Aggies have risen to the program's highest ranking ever.
The Wahine have put Sunday's loss behind them, saying it's not so much a wake-up call as a midseason measuring stick.
"We didn't play well at all Sunday," said junior hitter Jamie Houston, who had a match-high 16 kills against the Huskers. "It was a learning experience.
"They (the Aggies) are a good team. They have a lot of options on offense, but if we come out and play our game, we'll be fine."
Of concern is New Mexico State's 6-2 offense, which puts three attackers in the front row every rotation and utilizes two setters. The Aggies have solid middles in All-WAC players Amber Simpson and Kim Oguh, very good outsides in junior transfer Lindsey Yon and sophomore Krista Altermatt, and one of the top defensive players in the country in junior libero Krystal Torres.
"They definitely gave us a run for our money when we were up there," Wahine freshman reserve setter Dani Mafua said. "They do run a tricky offense, use their middles a lot, but it's nothing we can't stop."
"We're definitely looking forward to having the home-court advantage," sophomore starting setter Stephanie Brandt said. "It's gone five a number of times the past few years. The ideal situation is that it doesn't happen again."
Note: Last night, Nebraska played its worst match in two years following its sweep of Hawaii last Sunday, losing for the first time in 30 matches. The Huskers (19-1, 11-1 Big 12) fell at No. 5 Texas (15-3, 11-1) 30-22, 30-25, 30-20, the first time they've been swept in Big 12 play since the Longhorns did it in 1997.