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Wounded Wahine can't keep up with Nebraska


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POSTED: Friday, March 20, 2009

You would have thought it was a baseball game, the way Hawaii kept throwing changeups and curves at Nebraska last night.

A setter and libero turned into outside hitters. A defensive specialist became a libero.

And a middle who was wearing track shoes just last week — competing in the high jump at the NCAA championships — turned in the best performance of all.

Oddly enough, it was almost enough.

Almost.

The Huskers, however, had the better X factor during the exhibition volleyball match at the Stan Sheriff Center. Freshman hitter Hannah Werth, foregoing her final semester of high school to enroll early, finished with 15 kills to lead Nebraska past Hawaii 25-23, 25-23, 16-25, 25-23.

Tara Mueller added 13 and Brooke Delano 11 for the Huskers, who were outblocked by the Rainbow Wahine 11-9.

Freshman hitter Kanani Danielson led Hawaii with 15 kills while junior middle Amber Kaufman — fifth in last week's NCAA high jump — added 12 kills with no errors in 16 swings. Danielson had a match-high 16 digs and junior Jayme Lee, moving from defensive specialist to libero, had 11.

What will stay with the Wahine during spring break was how close they were to sweeping the Huskers. Hawaii just couldn't close at the ends of the sets, particularly Set 3 when holding a 23-21 lead.

Hitting errors by Jamie Houston and Brittany Hewitt and two kills by Werth added up to the match-clinching 4-0 run for Nebraska.

"We just didn't execute," said junior setter-turned-hitter Stephanie Brandt. "But despite it not being our regular lineup, we had a high level of play.

"Our serve-receive was our downfall. And there was a lack of communication. Still, a lot of people thought we'd get crushed and we didn't."

"It sucked, the way it ended," Kaufman said. "It was like we said, 'The game is on a platter, here you go.' We gave it to them."

Hawaii coach Dave Shoji said there were a number of positives that came out of last night, as well as a number of question marks. The libero position is up for grabs, he said, as well as the second middle spot. Alternating last night were redshirt Hewitt and junior Cat Fowler.

"There were a lot of good rallies out there," he said. "We played some pretty good defense, but we had two or three overpasses in each game and got aced. We've got to eliminate those kinds of errors.

"We need to find a middle, and libero is open, too. No one can win the job in spring, but you can advance yourself going into fall."

Hawaii has four more weeks of spring practice before taking the summer off.

"We had three solid players out there in Kanani, Amber and Dani (setter Mafua)," Shoji added. "I knew we'd be competitive with them out there. And everyone else got some needed work. But we have got to find players who will step it up. Next time out, you should be better."