RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
UH middle Juliana Sanders can hear the clock ticking on her college volleyball career.
Lee got Hawaii-style help making connections
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There was no antidote for what ailed the Hawaii volleyball team last week when some players came down with a stomach ailment.
But there was one anecdote that sophomore defensive specialist Jayme Lee was able to share when she finally showed up -- late -- at the Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif.
San Jose State (13-13, 7-8 WAC) at Hawaii (20-4,14-0)
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It was one of those "only in Hawaii" moments ... but it came some 2,500 miles away.
Lee initially was too ill to travel with the team following Thursday's sweep of Nevada in Reno. She eventually was able to take a flight to San Francisco and then on to Fresno, where the Rainbow Wahine were facing Fresno State.
"I then realized that I didn't have a way to get from the airport to the game," Lee said.
No problem. One of the flight attendants, who was from Hawaii, offered to drive her.
"Then my bag was lost," Lee said.
No problem. The flight attendant called one of the baggage supervisors, who also was from Hawaii, and the bag was located.
Lee's only problem was trying to talk her way through security since the match had already started. She said it felt odd sitting on the bench in her warm-ups with her luggage next to her.
"After the adversity of this weekend, I think we can handle anything," she said. "Nothing comes easy to us and we've learned to deal with it. It's at the heart of this team."
No. 10 Hawaii looks to conclude its 10th undefeated season in 12 years of WAC play when hit hosts San Jose State tomorrow and Utah State on Sunday.
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A dozen conference titles is all fine and good. But the title that counts -- the one that comes from winning next week's conference tournament -- is the one that matters.
To that end, No. 10 Hawaii is not resting on its laurels, despite having wrapped up its 12th Western Athletic Conference regular-season championship and clinched the top seed in the WAC tournament.
This week's goals are to finish out the conference undefeated for the 10th time in 12 seasons, and do so while continuing to improve.
"We can't lose our concentration or our focus," Rainbow Wahine coach Dave Shoji said. "We've got to get some momentum for the tournament.
"We're going to see two teams that pose some problems and both are playing well right now."
First up is San Jose State (13-13, 7-8) tomorrow. The Spartans have won six of their last eight and nearly had a seventh before losing in five at Nevada last Saturday.
San Jose State is led by junior middle Colleen Burke, tops in the WAC in hitting percentage (.351). The Spartans also feature two Hawaii prep products in sophomore libero Kristal Tsukano (Kamehameha '06), the second SJSU player to record 40 or more digs in a match with 42 against Idaho last month, and freshman hitter Brianna Amian (Moanalua '07), who had a school-record 14 block assists against San Francisco on Sept. 14.
On Sunday, Hawaii finishes up its home WAC schedule with Utah State (15-12, 9-5). Although it's not "Senior Night" -- that is scheduled for Nov. 21 when UH hosts Loyola Marymount -- there is a sense of their careers winding down for four Rainbow Wahine seniors: middles Juliana Sanders, Kari Gregory and Caroline Blood, and defensive specialist Raeceen Woolford.
"I remember thinking when we played Fresno at home (Oct. 7) that there would be only six more home matches after that," Gregory said. "And now we're down to four.
"It's definitely hard to think about when you look at the big picture, knowing you'll never wear the jersey on the court again, run out of the tunnel and play in the arena again."
Which gives the underclassmen some motivation this week and the rest of the season.
"You get very sentimental, knowing there's not much time left with the seniors, and we want to make their senior season special," sophomore defensive specialist Jayme Lee said. "They're more than teammates, they're family,
"But we still have more to improve on before it's over and they're gone. Both (San Jose State and Utah State) are pretty tough teams. It's not like we can just show up. We have to come well prepared with our best game, continue to be strong and focus on getting better in every aspect of our game."
And Hawaii has gotten better as the season has gone on, according to Shoji.
"We're a way different team than in the beginning of the season," he said. "We did have a couple of bad losses early but we also had some good early wins.
"We are better now than we were. We need to keep that going."
Note: In conjunction with Veterans Day, this has been designated Military Weekend at UH. All active, reserve and retired members of the military can purchase two-for-one tickets with a maximum of six. A valid military ID card is needed to purchase tickets either in advance at the Stan Sheriff Center box office or on the day of the matches.