Ka‘aihue sparks Wahine to victory in exhibition
The difference within three days was noticeable.
Some came from an additional two days of practice, some from the return of libero Elizabeth Ka'aihue.
Whatever the reason, the Hawaii women's volleyball team looked much more comfortable on the Stan Sheriff Center court yesterday. The Rainbow Wahine capped their Spring Mini Tournament with a 25-23, 20-25, 15-9 victory over Saint Mary's, a team Hawaii will see for real this September.
"I thought we were a lot more focused tonight," Wahine middle Amber Kaufman said, finishing with seven kills against the Gaels. "And Liz (Ka'aihue) makes a big difference. I can't wait for August."
A turnstile crowd of 1,578 also saw the Wahine avenge Tuesday's loss to Cal State Northridge with a 25-12, 25-16, 15-17 win in last night's second match. Aneli Cubi-Otineru had 11 kills and three blocks against the Matadors.
Cubi-Otineru had 11 kills and the match-ending ace against St. Mary's, which featured two former Iolani players in middle Megan Burton and setter Kapua Kamana'o. Burton had five blocks and four kills for the Gaels. (There were no official statistics for Kamana'o).
"It feels good to be home," said Kamana'o, the younger sister of former Wahine All-America setter Kanoe. "I can't wait to bring the team back in September. I'm telling them that they'll be 6,000 watching us. They don't believe me, but I know how big the crowd will be."
Hawaii coach Dave Shoji said he was pleased with the progress shown from Tuesday's exhibition. His younger players, such as hitter Stephanie Ferrell and middle Amanda Simmons, got valuable match experience, as did junior middle Catherine Fowler, a transfer from Arkansas.
"It was night and day," Shoji said. "We weren't ready to play Tuesday. We obviously looked more comfortable out there.
"Dani (setter Mafua) did a nice job out there. And it's always nice to win."
Mafua set most of the two matches. Stephanie Brandt, who set Game 3 against CSUN, sprained her ankle during warmups prior to the St. Mary's match; X-rays taken last night showed no broken bones.
Jamie Houston led the Wahine against the Gaels with 14 kills.
The tripleheader opened with St. Mary's sweeping Cal State Northridge, 25-11, 25-22. Megan York led the Gaels with six kills.
Hawaii opens the season Aug. 29 against defending national champion Penn State in the Hawaiian Airlines Classic.