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StarBulletin.com

Wahine, Huskers will go deep


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POSTED: Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The volleyball version of musical chairs is expected to be played on both sides of the net at the Stan Sheriff Center tomorrow night.

With offseason injuries and surgeries affecting the Hawaii and Nebraska rosters, the exhibition match between the two powers is rife with question marks. If nothing else, it's a chance for both coaches to see how redshirts and those who didn't play much last season fare against quality opposition.

“;We always welcome someone like a Nebraska who wants to come out in spring,”; Rainbow Wahine coach Dave Shoji said. “;It's a good opportunity for us to play somebody other than ourselves, get some quality competition and experience.

“;I know they've got some players out as well but they've been so deep. They'll be a solid team.”;

Injuries have hampered Hawaii's progress, with the biggest blow coming last week when freshman outside hitter Stephanie Ferrell fractured an ankle. Offseason surgery for junior hitter Aneli Cubi-Otineru has the Wahine a bit thin on the outside.

Possibilities have Hawaii running a 6-2 offense, utilizing setters Dani Mafua and Stephanie Brandt, or moving Brandt to the outside.

“;Brandt has a live arm, was our best attacker Saturday,”; Shoji said. “;She does a lot of good things for us and she'll set the off play.”;

Shoji said he may have one of the middle blockers play right-side hitter. The rotation at middle includes junior Amber Kaufman, who missed a few days last week to compete in the NCAA high jump event; redshirt freshman Brittany Hewitt; and junior Catherine Fowler.

Senior hitter Jamie Houston probably will see playing time but senior libero/hitter Tara Hittle, fresh off playing for the Wahine basketball team, isn't expected to play. Cubi-Otineru, still rehabbing from knee surgery, will be limited to back-row play.

Hawaii finished 31-4, losing to eventual national runner-up Stanford in the regional final.

The Huskers are coming off a 31-3 season where they lost to eventual national champion Penn State in the NCAA semifinal. Nebraska returns five starters, including two sophomore All-Americans in setter Sydney Anderson and hitter Tara Mueller.

Injuries have sidelined junior right-side hitter Lindsey Licht, junior middle Kori Cooper and freshman hitter Kaitlynn James. Huskers coach John Cook said he'll use the spring to develop redshirt freshman middle Allison McNeal as well as two freshmen who joined the program in January: Hannah Werth, an outside hitter and Megan Pendergast, a defensive specialist.

The match will go at least four sets, Shoji said.

Note: Joining the Wahine this semester is freshman walk-on Chantalle DeLa Courture, a 6-foot-1 hitter-middle who was an all-league selection at Castle.