Vulcans favored in PacWest
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There was no reward for the Hawaii-Hilo Vulcans going undefeated in Pacific West Conference women's volleyball last season. Not even a courtesy note from the NCAA Pacific Region selection committee saying, "Thanks for playing. See you next year."
Hawaii teams have won four NCAA Division II titles in women's volleyball:
» 2002: Brigham Young-Hawaii (27-2)
» 2000: Hawaii Pacific (28-0)
» 1999: Brigham Young-Hawaii (30-2)
» 1998: Hawaii Pacific (31-5)
That will change this season as the PWC champion now is guaranteed an automatic berth in the regional. One thing expected to remain the same, however, is how tough the Vulcans will be.
Hawaii-Hilo was picked to repeat as champion in the preseason coaches poll announced yesterday. The Vulcans received six of seven first-place votes with Brigham Young-Hawaii, picked second, receiving the other.
"I think the Hawaii teams will be incredibly tough this year," second-year Vulcans coach Bruce Atkinson said. "Hopefully, we won't beat up on each other too much."
The preseason All-PWC team was announced as well. Leading the way was Chaminade senior hitter Trina Kauliakamoa, named the Preseason Player of the Year.
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Change is the watchword in Pacific West Conference volleyball this season.
PACIFIC WEST CONFERENCE VOLLEYBALL
PRESEASON COACHES POLL
(First-place votes in parentheses)
1. Hawaii-Hilo (6)
2. Brigham Young-Hawaii (1)
4. Hawaii Pacific
5. Notre Dame de Namur
6. Grand Canyon
7. Dixie State
PRESEASON ALL-PACWEST TEAM
PRESEASON PLAYER OF YEAR
Not only will the league winner earn an automatic berth into the NCAA Division II regionals, there will be differences in scoring, travel and scheduling. Sets (formerly called games) will go from 30 points to 25; Hawaii teams will make one trip to the mainland for conference matches; and, with the guaranteed postseason berth, coaches are able to schedule tougher nonconference opponents without fear of affecting an at-large bid chance.
"There is a definite mind-set you have to teach with the change in scoring," said Wilfred Navalta, beginning his 24th season at Brigham Young-Hawaii. "I think it's a positive thing for me as a coach, teaching the importance of getting off to a good start. If someone gets a big lead early on you, it will be hard to catch up.
"And with the automatic berth, it does change the philosophy of scheduling. Before you had to be very careful, but now I'm trying to schedule the best I can."
That's the collective mind-set of the PacWest volleyball coaches this season. At yesterday's media day hosted by Chaminade, the coaches agreed that one team going to the NCAA regionals isn't enough, given the overall quality of the PWC.
"We want to do well for our team's sake as well as that of the conference," said Hawaii-Hilo coach Bruce Atkinson, whose team is picked in the coaches' preseason poll to repeat as champions.
The Vulcans, who received six of seven first-place votes, have a crazy schedule that includes two mainland tournaments and 10 matches in eight days.
The Seasiders, who received the other first-place vote, travel to UC San Diego's Triton Invitational that features four quality California teams.
Chaminade, third in the poll, and Hawaii Pacific, picked fourth, both head to the Central Washington Invitational.
Due to the cost of airfare, there has been some creative conference scheduling, according to PacWest commissioner Bob Hogue. Although the NCAA will be helping "geographically challenged" schools with enhancement funds, not every PWC school will have a home-and-home series. For example, both of Chaminade's matches against Dixie State and Grand Canyon will be on the road, and the Silverswords will host NDNU twice.
The conference expands with two Bay Area teams next year, adding Academy of Art and Dominican University. The Urban Knights of AA have all seven current PacWest teams on their schedule this season, although the results won't count in the standings.
Chaminade, the only Hawaii school without a national volleyball title, did pick up the Preseason Player of the Year award. Selected was senior hitter Trina Kauliakamoa. Also named from the Silverswords was sophomore setter Tanya Alvino.
The Vulcans have three players on the team, including reigning PWC Player of the Year Fabiane Seben, a junior middle. Also named were junior hitter Josimara Pinheiro and junior Laura Rodriguez, last year's Libero of the Year. Dana Edington of Grand Canyon rounds out the team.