Sports Watch

By Bill Kwon

Monday, November 4, 1996



Two losses in two years?
No shame

IT was supposed to have been just a test for the Rainbow Wahine, not a loss.

So when Stanford whipped - simply dominated - the previously unbeaten University of Hawaii women's volleyball team Saturday night, 5-15, 15-11, 15-6, 15-9, the sellout crowd of 10,225 fans at the Special Events Arena was stunned into silence.

The interactive crowd became inactive. There was no conga line dancing around the upper concourse. The "Wave" was silenced, thankfully.

After the Rainbow Wahine won the first game, the Rainbow faithful were doing the Macarena. When it became apparent that it was the last hurrah for the Wahine, the popular craze was reduced to nothing more than what we older folks knew it was all along - simply a Hispanic version of the hokey pokey.

BUT the UH Wahine volleyball team losing is such a rare occurrence. Dave Shoji's Wahine were 31-1 last year. They're now 23-1 this year.

Wassa matta coach? What's wrong with your team? Wouldn't UH football coach Fred vonAppen be envious of being asked that question?

Shoji could only shake his head. His Wahine were operating on just two cylinders in probably their most important home match of the season. With the exception of Angelica Ljunguist and Robyn Ah Mow, the rest of the team was not scoring, winding up with a negative hitting percentage.

Credit Stanford, which played great defense to dominate the Wahine as nobody had ever done here, even Michigan State last year.

"It's great for us to realize that's a final four type team and there are six to eight teams like that out there," Shoji said. "We need to get better."

Stanford, which had entered the game as the No. 4 team against the top-ranked Wahine, proved simply superior. The

Pac-10 Cardinal were led by 6-foot-2 freshman Kerri Walsh, who more than lived up to her reputation as the top high school recruit in the nation.

With her strong serves and team-high 18 kills, Walsh turned out to be the difference in the match. Four more years of Walsh, if you count this season's playoffs.

"This was the first time I played against them. I hope it won't be the last time," Ljunguist said. "I hope we meet then again in the final four."

There's a chance. And that's about the only good thing you could say about the Wahine's loss.

LAST year, their only defeat came in the final of the NCAA Regional here against Michigan State. There was no tomorrow when that happened.

"We can play again next week. That's a good thing," Shoji said. "All the things we did tonight are fixable."

He knows that the loss to Stanford wasn't the end of the world - at least for this season - for his team.

As far as he was concerned, the Cardinal might have done his Wahine a favor, Shoji said.

"This might be good for us in the long run. They did us a favor by exploiting some things we know we have to work on."

For one thing, they're no longer burdened by an undefeated record as last year's team was. When the '95 Wahine trailed - and eventually lost to the Spartans - they simply didn't know how to act, not having tasted defeat before.

This team has, with enough time to do something about it.

What does hurt, though, is that the loss might cost UH the chance of hosting a regional, although Shoji thinks the Wahine should still be among the top four teams in the nation at the end of the season.

Still, even though his team won, Stanford coach Don Shaw marveled about Hawaii's volleyball support. His team draws 1,600 fans a game. "I look around and see all these dollar signs," Shaw said.

Maybe that should be the real bottom line.



Bill Kwon has been writing
about sports for the Star-Bulletin since 1959.




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