UH wants shift out of neutral
» Shoji, Lawson pick Stanford
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There is one certainty in sports.
All winning streaks eventually come to an end.
It's how Dave Shoji dealt with Sunday's loss to unranked Utah State that ended Hawaii's perfect record at home in Western Athletic Conference volleyball play.
WAC volleyball tournament
At Las Cruces, N.M.
No. 10 Hawaii (21-5) vs. Boise State (5-22) or Louisiana Tech (6-23)
When: Thursday, 11:30 a.m.
Radio: 1420-AM live
TV: KFVE (Ch. 5) live; rebroadcast, 7 p.m.
"When you've been in this game as long as we have, you know streaks are going to end," the Rainbow Wahine coach said after this one stopped at 97.
There is one, however, that Hawaii wants to continue. That of consecutive WAC tournament victories.
The Wahine have won the last seven conference tourney titles and the league's automatic berth into the NCAA tournament. They'll open play in Thursday's quarterfinal against the winner of the earlier play-in game between Louisiana Tech and Boise State.
If all goes according to seeds at the Pan American Center, it will be No. 11 Hawaii against host and 13th-ranked New Mexico State on Saturday. But, as Sunday's loss proved, there are no givens.
"It's a real shot in the arm for Utah State," New Mexico State coach Mike Jordan said. "People are going to pay a lot more attention to our semifinal match if we get there and we play them."
New Mexico State, seeded second, and Utah State, seeded third, are on the opposite side of the bracket from No. 1-seed Hawaii.
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The aftershocks of Hawaii's loss to unranked Utah State on Sunday are expected to be felt from this week's Western Athletic Conference tournament through NCAA Selection Sunday on Nov. 25.
Just how much being swept by the Aggies -- ranked in the bottom half of 312 Division I teams -- will hurt the Rainbow Wahine in the regional and national rankings is unclear. What is clear is No. 11 Hawaii cannot afford to lose another match the rest of the regular season if it wants to host the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament, or be a top-16 seed.
But those thoughts are on the back burner. The focus of today's practice was to get back into the rhythm that had the Wahine winning 15 WAC matches before their surprising loss to Utah State.
"We just go back to work," UH coach Dave Shoji said. "We need to work on skills, see if we can get better production in all parts of our game.
"The most disappointing thing for me was blowing a big lead in Game 1. It's really hard to blow a 20-12 lead, you basically have the game won. But once you put it into neutral, it's really hard to get yourself out of it."
And as Jamie Houston went, so did Hawaii. The junior should pick up the WAC Player of the Year award at tomorrow's tournament banquet; Sunday, she was unable to pick up her game or her team at crucial junctures, finishing with 10 kills, a third off her average.
Hawaii opens Thursday against the winner of the play-in match between eighth-seeded Boise State and ninth-seeded Louisiana Tech.
Hawaii should advance to Friday's semifinal against the winner of Nevada-Idaho. The Wolf Pack have struggled, losing at Utah State and to Utah Valley State last week. The Vandals come in on a three-match winning streak, having defeated Utah State, Fresno State and Boise State.
The other side of the bracket pits No. 13 New Mexico State against Fresno State, and Utah State vs. San Jose State. NMSU hasn't lost since falling to Hawaii six matches ago, while the Bulldogs haven't won since Oct. 13, a skid that was extended to eight when they fell to New Mexico State on Saturday.
Utah State obviously has momentum heading into the week. The Spartans come in after losing their last two (at Nevada and at Hawaii).
And what does Utah State's win do for the WAC?
"I don't have an answer for that," New Mexico State Mike Jordan said. "If Utah State can maintain what they've been doing this year and keep doing it next year, then we're looking at three strong teams in the conference.
"But if Utah State falls off the table, all it does is make Hawaii look mediocre. With the conference searching for respect, you don't want that to happen."
Jordan said ticket sales have been steady but only 700 all-session packages have been sold. He expected at least 2,000 the first two days and "if we get to the final, then maybe 7,000," he said.
Jordan also bemoaned the lack of national TV coverage for Saturday's final.
"It's disappointing that the deal with the WAC and CSTV fell through," he said. "How great would it be for the conference to have us and Hawaii playing? That there is no chance for it to happen is ridiculous."
Shoji, Lawson pick Stanford
Consider it the Hawaii-Palo Alto campus.
Stanford is expected to receive letters of intent tomorrow from two All-State volleyball players: libero Erik Shoji (Punahou '08) and outside hitter Brad Lawson (Iolani '08). That brings the number of Hawaii recruits landed by Cardinal coach John Kosty the past three years to six.
Already on the Stanford roster is Shoji's older brother, Kawika (Iolani '06), a setter/hitter; outside hitter Spencer McLachlin (Punahou '07); libero Jordan Inafuku (Kamehameha '07) and middle Max Halvorson (Punahou '07).
The choice came down to Stanford, Pepperdine and USC for Erik Shoji. It was Stanford and Pepperdine for Lawson.
"I think the opportunity to get a Stanford education, along with the program getting better, was what it came down to," said Shoji, son of Hawaii women's volleyball coach Dave Shoji. "I value education and to pass that up would be a big mistake.
"Brad and I didn't talk about it much, we wanted to make our own decisions, but we're really good friends on and off the court. I think that having that many Hawaii players on the roster is a tribute to the programs we have here. Obviously we're producing some talent."
Shoji's sister, Cobey, is the director of volleyball operations for the Stanford women's team. He said that while his siblings had encouraged him to make his own decision, they also said they'd enjoy being all together on campus.
Lawson said Stanford's academic reputation played a big role in his decision as well. He also has teamed with most of the other Hawaii players, either for Outrigger Canoe Club or through USA Volleyball.
"Kawika went first and it was like follow-the-leader after that," said Lawson.