GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM
Senior middle hitter Kari Gregory would be delighted if the Rainbow Wahine were picked to go to the sub-regionals at UNLV in Las Vegas, where she grew up.
Playing the waiting game
UH is anxious to find out if it stays home, or travels, for NCAA regional
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He would have taken a knee.
"The game was won, why wouldn't you?" Dave Shoji said of the decision by the Hawaii football team to run out the clock instead of trying for another score against Boise State on Friday. "For one thing, you risk the chance of a fumble. You just never know what's going to happen."
Such is the attitude the Rainbow Wahine volleyball coach takes into today, awaiting the NCAA Selection Show (ESPNU, 3 p.m. Hawaii time). No. 11 Hawaii has put in a bid to host the sub-regional matches Thursday and Friday, but the NCAA has not been kind to the Wahine, sending them on the road for the first and second rounds the past three seasons.
Hawaii (26-5) rides a five-match winning streak into what will be its 15th consecutive NCAA appearance, 26th overall. The Wahine haven't lost in the first round since falling to Loyola Marymount in 1997 at The Pyramid in Long Beach, Calif., and have advanced to the regional every season since, going 18-0 in first- and second-round play.
This year's predetermined regional sites are Stanford, Wisconsin, Penn State and Florida, scheduled for Dec. 7 and 8. The final four is in Sacramento, Calif., on Dec. 13 and 15.
"I always hold out some kind of hope for us to stay home," Shoji said, "but I'm not counting on it, not planning on it. If it happens, great."
If not, the Wahine will be making their sixth trip to the mainland this year.
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Possible change in latitude but no change in attitude. That's how Hawaii approaches the potential of being back on the road this week for NCAA tournament sub-regional volleyball matches.
The Rainbow Wahine (26-5) have no idea where they might be sent for the first and second rounds. It could be as close as the Stan Sheriff Center -- UH has put in to host Thursday and Friday -- or it could be as far away as Fort Collins, Colo. (2004) or Austin, Texas (2006).
"We'll take the road that's given us," Hawaii senior middle Juliana Sanders said after yesterday morning's practice in Klum Gym. "I'm really excited about tomorrow, finding out where we'll be playing. It's something new every year.
"It would be awesome to stay home, but we know the chances are pretty slim. We'll take it as it comes."
With football on Saturday, Hawaii can only host Thursday and Friday, which could limit the Wahine's chances to be home. Teams need to be able to get to the site in time for a practice the day prior to the first round.
If Hawaii goes on the road, the hope is that the Wahine need to make just one flight, as they did last year when playing at Long Beach State. If the Wahine had a preference, it would be to go to UNLV, giving senior middle Kari Gregory a chance to play in her hometown, which has a huge UH following.
"That would be awesome, 'K.G.' getting to play at home," Sanders said of Gregory. "We've seen snow (2005 regional at Penn State), been there, done that. Anywhere we go is fine with me. One game at a time."
It all depends on which schools put in bids as well. This season is the first year UNLV has cracked the Top 25 -- although the Rebels are currently unranked -- and UNLV (24-5) has no conflict for use of its Cox Pavilion, where the Mountain West Conference tournament wrapped up yesterday.
In the unofficial regional rankings, used to help seed the 64-team tournament, Hawaii is No. 1 in the West, 13th overall. BYU is second (14th overall), however the Cougars lost to UNLV on Friday in the Mountain West semifinal.
Until 3 p.m. today, everything is speculation. The only given is that the Wahine, should they win twice this week, will advance to one of the predetermined regional sites: Stanford, Wisconsin, Penn State and Florida.
"All the regionals will be equally tough," Hawaii coach Dave Shoji said. "I wouldn't mind going to Florida (currently ranked No. 8). What we hope to be is seeded somewhere between ninth and 12th, and avoid seeing any of the top eight teams -- Penn State, Nebraska, Texas, Stanford, USC, Washington, Cal, Florida -- in the second round.
"The West Coast (this week) would be fine as long as it's not at Stanford or Washington. There is no easy way to get to anywhere, no easy road to the championship."
In 1998, Hawaii was in the regional final at Florida only to lose to the Gators in five. The Wahine upset host Nebraska in the 2002 regional final to advance to New Orleans, Hawaii's last final-four appearance.
Yesterday's 2-hour practice was a fairly light one. The mood was upbeat, a combination of holiday with family, two good wins over the Lions and the anticipation of today.
"LMU was a really good team," Shoji said, "a team I thought would give us a lot of trouble with their ball control and steadiness. That's the type of team that gives us trouble sometimes.
"We are playing well. And it will take a really good, even effort if we're going to go far."