Wahine off to Louisville
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Home to the Kentucky Derby and the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory.
Tennessee State (20-13) vs. Hawaii (26-5)
» When: Friday, 11 a.m. Hawaii time
» Where: Louisville, Ky.
» Radio: KKEA, 1420-AM
Home to Hawaii's hopes of advancing in the NCAA volleyball tournament.
For the fourth consecutive year, the Rainbow Wahine have earned a top-16 seed but also a trip to the mainland. Hawaii (26-5), seeded 11th in the 64-team field, is headed to the sub-regional at the Kentucky International Convention Center.
The Wahine have a first-round match against Tennessee State on Friday (11 a.m. Hawaii time). The Tigers (20-13) earned an automatic bid as the Ohio Valley Conference champions.
Friday's second match pits the host Cardinals (22-7) against Middle Tennessee State (33-2). Louisville, which lost to Hawaii in four Sept. 2, was one of 33 teams awarded an at-large berth. The Blue Raiders won the Sun Belt Conference.
This will be Hawaii's first trip to the Bluegrass State since winning the 1983 NCAA title in Lexington. This is also the farthest (4,370 miles) the Wahine have ever been sent for an NCAA opener.
Should Hawaii advance, the Wahine will travel to the regional hosted by Penn State, the second time they will have made that trip in three years.
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Try team groan.
Yesterday, that was the unanimous reaction from the Hawaii volleyball team when watching the NCAA Selection Show at Eastside Grill.
It wasn't because of the draw. The Rainbow Wahine, seeded 11th, have a good one. They are not in top-seeded Stanford's regional, nor that of defending champion Nebraska, seeded second.
The groan was over yet another trip to the mainland for a sub-regional instead of playing at home. For the fourth consecutive year, Hawaii has a top-16 seed as well as plane tickets for the first and second rounds.
The Wahine (26-5) have been shipped out to Louisville, Ky., and will face Ohio Valley champion Tennessee State (20-13) on Friday (11 a.m. Hawaii time). The Tigers are one of six teams making their first NCAA appearance.
In Friday's other match, the host Cardinals (22-7), regular-season Big East champions, face Sun Belt champion Middle Tennessee State (33-2).
The second-round winner moves on to the regional hosted by Penn State. Hawaii advanced to the Penn State regional in 2005, losing in the semifinal to Missouri.
"This is the most comfortable I've felt about our draw in my career," fifth-year senior Kari Gregory said. "The travel is a little tough. It's a good draw.
"We've seen Louisville this season and we've been to Penn State. But we can't be thinking about Penn State yet. We've got to be thinking about the first two games."
Hawaii was just one of two teams from the Western Athletic Conference to make the tournament. Selected as one of the 33 at-large teams was WAC runner-up New Mexico State (26-5); the Aggies will face LSU (24-7) in the sub-regional hosted by fourth-seeded Texas.
The Texas sub-regional is part of the regional hosted by Florida. That's one place Wahine junior Jamie Houston would have preferred going, being closer to her mother, who has moved to Orange Park, Fla., about an hour outside of Gainesville.
"Florida would have been perfect, but it's OK, Louisville's still close," Houston said. "I think it's a good bracket and we have a good chance."
Should both Hawaii and Louisville advance to Saturday's contest, it would be a rematch of the Sept. 2 meeting between the two during the Hawaiian Airlines Classic. The Wahine won that in four.
"It's a little far to go, but I've got to like our draw," Hawaii coach Dave Shoji said. "The first two rounds are tough, but it's not somebody we can't beat, that's for sure.
"When you look at it, there is no easy bracket, they're all tough. And we haven't been to Kentucky in a while."
That last trip resulted in the 1983 NCAA title when the Wahine defeated UCLA in Lexington.
Yesterday, the Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-10 all had six teams chosen with the SEC having five, and the West Coast and Missouri Valley each with four.
Two teams, Penn State and Stanford, have earned bids to all 27 championships. The other five teams in the tournament for the first time are Cleveland State, Delaware, Lipscomb, South Dakota State and UNLV.
In the 26-year history of the tournament, only 10 schools have won the title. Only Pacific is not in this year's field.