JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Tara Hittle put down one of her seven kills in the Rainbow Wahine's victory over New Mexico State on Friday night.
Rainbow Wahine take on struggling Louisiana Tech
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The antipodes of the Western Athletic Conference -- Hawaii and Louisiana Tech -- have something in common when it comes to recruiting in volleyball.
Louisiana Tech (6-19) at Hawaii (17-4, 11-0)
When: Today, 5 p.m.
Where: Stan Sheriff Center
TV: Live, KFVE
Radio: Live, 1420-AM
Series: Hawaii leads, 10-0
Scouting top athletes sometimes requires a long trip for both Hawaii's Dave Shoji and Heather Mazeitis of Louisiana Tech. For Shoji, it's at least a 5-hour plane ride to the West Coast; for Mazeitis, a 4-hour drive will get her to the closest hotbed of talent: Texas.
"Every kid we have is out of state," Mazeitis said. "I can't drive 10 minutes to see club volleyball. If I drive 4 hours, I'll be in Dallas."
But recruiting isn't the only problem for LaTech; the struggles are also on the court, where the Lady Techsters (6-19, 1-11) have lost six straight heading into today's 5 p.m. match with the Rainbow Wahine (16-4, 10-0).
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Hawaii will turn back the clock today, honoring Dr. Donnis Thompson, the school's first women's athletic director, when dedicating a sculpture on the concourse of the Stan Sheriff Center.
Thompson is a walking history book of gender equity, a chapter of her life reflecting the struggles and the successes the Rainbow Wahine programs from 1972 to 1981.
Ironically, many of the problems she encountered three decades ago at UH are alive and well -- or not so well -- at Louisiana Tech. Basketball has always been the queen at the school, football the king, and volleyball very much a lady-in-waiting.
A major problem this season has been facilities, or lack thereof. A poorly timed renovation of the Thomas Assembly Center court forced volleyball into the Lambright Intramural Center and -- although the court was available as of Oct. 13 -- volleyball's last four home matches stayed put in Lambright.
"I really don't envy her situation, either from a support standpoint or facilities," Hawaii coach Dave Shoji said of Heather Mazeitis, his LaTech counterpart. "I can't speak for Louisiana Tech, but I know every year she has issues about facilities and venues.
"We do care more about volleyball here than they do."
And Hawaii has cared for a longer time. The Wahine's fourth -- and last -- national title came in 1987, LaTech's inaugural season in the sport.
More fans will watch this afternoon's Wahine alumnae match than have seen all of the Lady Techsters' home matches ... a combined 902 after last Saturday's loss to Nevada.
LaTech will have had a week off since being swept by the Wolf Pack, a tape of which Mazeitis again was watching on Thursday. The officials showed up 2 1/2 hours late and it went downhill from there, including a questionable call at the end of Game 2 that cost her team a game, according to the coach.
Tech appeared to have tied the match at 1-1, with a 30-27 win in Game 2. A late net violation call -- "Not even close," Mazeitis said -- gave the Wolf Pack life instead at 29-28. Nevada closed it out with three unanswered points en route to completing the sweep.
The highlights have been few this season, with Tech's only WAC victory coming in five when hosting Boise State back on Sept. 29. All but two of the WAC losses have been sweeps; LaTech took a game off Nevada in the season opener in Reno and took a game off Hawaii for the first time in 10 meetings on Sept. 20.
"We've done some nice things," Mazeitis said. "But we're young and we've struggled with consistency."
This year's roster has five players from Texas and three from Arizona. LaTech would have had two sisters from Poland -- 6-footers Paulina and Sabrina Piegza -- who would have made an impact, but they stayed home when their mother became ill.
So Mazeitis has done what she has for the past six seasons, done the best with what she has. Senior middle Shannon Phillips is finishing her stellar career strong, again among the WAC leaders (4.48 kpg), and junior libero Brittany Nakamura ranks in the top 10 in aces and digs.
"This has been a good break for the kids," she said. "A time for us to regroup. For us right now, we want to play at a consistent level and compete."