Rainbow Wahine to make chilly debut at NCAAs
Following a couple of firsts -- a Western Athletic Conference tournament championship and a berth in the NCAAs -- the Hawaii women's soccer team is packing a lot of confidence.
The Rainbow Wahine (15-4-2) found out yesterday they'll have to pack a few other things, too, as they head to chilly Boulder, Colo., to take on the Colorado Buffaloes in the opening round of the College Cup on Friday.
"We have like a parka and a few jackets. A lot of us were saying, 'My God, we'd better go to the store right now and pick up a lot warmer clothes,' " senior midfielder and team captain Jessica Domingo said.
"We were thinking in the past that the WAC teams had to go to California, you know? So we were expecting somewhere along the West Coast. I don't think anybody on our team's been to Colorado, and definitely not played soccer there."
The team anxiously watched ESPN News for its bracket alignment in Boise, Idaho, the site of a 1-0 victory over Fresno State for the WAC title on Sunday. After discovering his team's destiny, coach Pinsoom Tenzing convinced the NCAA to send the Rainbow Wahine directly from Boise to Boulder, giving them a few days to acclimate to the high altitude and low temperature, as opposed to flying back to the islands for a quick turnaround.
Colorado (9-7-4), the Big 12's seventh-place team during the regular season, received an at-large berth, but was allowed to host of one of 16 preliminary sites (first and second round) over the region's No. 2 seed, Portland.
The winner of the Hawaii-Colorado game will play the survivor of Portland (West Coast Conference champion) and Sun Belt winner Denver in the round of 32 on Sunday.
Hawaii was one of the final teams announced on the selection show, while top-seeded teams such as defending champion North Carolina, UCLA, Stanford and Penn State were touted.
"Every time they announced a certain team and they were saying their rank, doing a little story, we're thinking, 'Oh yeah, we're gonna get put with them, we're gonna get put with them,'" said Domingo, out of Kamehameha. "It was kind of a surprise to not get put with a ranked team."
Going back to last week's WAC tournament, the road trip will easily be the longest of the season, Tenzing said. Hawaii has won eight of its last nine matches, including five straight.
"I have a terrific, terrific bunch of kids," Tenzing said of his team's resiliency. "I am expecting no problems whatsoever."
Tehane Higa, the WAC defensive player of the year, thinks the team will be good to go against the Buffaloes. She was nursing a sprained ankle that forced her to miss much of the WAC tournament, but the Aiea High graduate firmly believes she'll be ready to play.
"This (WAC) tournament, that's when it mattered the most and we proved that we can actually win games on the road," Higa said. "It definitely boosted our confidence going into the NCAAs."
Hawaii has played games in Colorado before, but never with the stakes so high. The Rainbow Wahine beat the Buffaloes 3-2 in 1996, and played at Air Force and Colorado College in 1996 and 1997, respectively.