Keeping Score

By Cindy Luis

Monday, February 10, 1997

Wahine are always good;
see for yourself

KENDIS Leeburg and Tiffany Fujimoto would never ask for this. So I'll do it for them.

Come see Leeburg, Fujimoto and the rest of the University of Hawaii women's team play. The Wahine (17-4), legitimate WAC title contenders, have just three more regular-season home games.

Think about coming. Especially to this Saturday's 7 p.m. game, which has been designated "Take A Girl To The Game Night" in conjunction with National Women and Girls in Sports Day in Hawaii.

Children under 18 are admitted free when accompanied by a paying adult. With the most expensive ticket at $6, it's the best entertainment bargain in the state.

Leeburg and Fujimoto are Hawaii's lone seniors. They've spent about as much time in the Special Events Arena as fans of both Wahine and men's volleyball teams, and their male basketball counterparts, as they have as players. It would be nice if their support could be repaid in kind.

The two have never played in front of a home crowd larger than 1,817, a mark set last year against Pacific. That's surprising in a place where everyone loves a winner, the Wahine have continually come up on the losing end in attendance.

This is a program that has won 70 percent of its games under Vince Goo since his hire in 1987.

THIS is a program that perennially leads the UH athletic department with the highest GPA. One with a 100 percent graduation rate for players remaining in the program for all four years.

BJ Itoman's pressure defense is nothing compared to the peer pressure to graduate. No Wahine gets her picture on the Wall of Fame in Goo's office unless there's a diploma as a gift tag.

Several former players struggled with academics and thought - briefly - about leaving school after their eligibility was up. But they stayed and graduated because, as one of them said, "No one wants to be the first NOT to be up on the wall."

It's a class program with class individuals.

Leeburg, a 6-foot-3 center, was nearly swallowed up by the sold-out crowd for the final regular-season Wahine home volleyball match last season. She had to wade through the masses in order to congratulate her best friend - and NCAA Player of the Year - Angelica Ljungquist.

When asked if she could imagine a crowd like this for her last home game, Leeburg smiled sadly before replying, "Wow. That would be something. But I love the fans we do have. They're the best."

The loyal "Balloon Brigade" and growing contingent of junior fan club menehune have create an intense yet intimate atmosphere. Once is enough to get hooked . . . the problem is getting potential fans to take the initial bait.

So take a chance Saturday.

Take a girl to the game. More importantly, take yourself.

WACFIASCO: Just what was the WAC thinking of when coming up with the crossover games in men's and women's basketball?

It makes absolutely no sense. Only 12 of the 16 teams are invited to the tournament, with the top two teams in each division receiving first-round byes.

It was luck of the draw for a crossover partner. There were no complaints from Southern Methodist when drawing Air Force, whose men's and women's teams are currently a combined 2-21.

But pity Colorado State, which got Utah in the crossover. The Ute men and women are both leading the Mountain Division.

Hawaii's situation is almost as bad, as both teams are contending for the title in tight Pacific Division races. The games with New Mexico may mean the difference between playing four games in order to win the WAC Tournament or having to win three.

There is such a simple solution but the WAC office won't budge: Just don't count the cross-over games in the league standings.

Cindy Luis is a Star-Bulletin sportswriter.
Her column appears weekly.

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