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Rainbow Wahine start practice tomorrow


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POSTED: Sunday, August 09, 2009

Somehow, one season has turned into 35, and one win into 984.

Dave Shoji isn't quite sure how it happened because the plan ... actually, there was no plan. He took a part-time job with a second-year program, turning it into a successful career with a successful team.

Shoji blows the whistle on his 35th season with Hawaii volleyball tomorrow morning in the Stan Sheriff Center. The 6:30 a.m. start signals the beginning of double-day practices for the Rainbow Wahine over 13 days.

“;We're gearing up for it,”; said Shoji, on the verge of becoming just the second Division I women's volleyball coach to notch 1,000 victories. “;We have the weekend off and we'll be ready to go Monday.

“;I'm looking forward to starting practice. With a lot of veterans returning, we'll probably be able to get right down to business with skills in the morning and team stuff in the afternoons.”;

Hawaii returns a solid nucleus from a 31-4 team that reached the elite eight, including four starters named All-Western Athletic Conference. Back are seniors Amber Kaufman, a middle, and Aneli Cubi-Otineru, an outside hitter; junior setter Dani Mafua; and sophomore hitter Kanani Danielson.

Danielson, the WAC freshman of the year, is the heir apparent to the “;terminator”; designation held the past four seasons by departed All-American Jamie Houston. Danielson and hard-hitting sophomore Stephanie Ferrell both were named to the WAC's All-Freshman team.

“;We have key players in place ... Amber, Dani, Kanani, Aneli ... and I think Ferrell fits in nicely in that first group,”; Shoji said.

Ferrell's competition for the third hitter's spot includes 6-foot-3 sophomore Corinne Cascioppo, a transfer from Mesa State (Colo.).

Mafua will again be pushed by senior Stephanie Brandt, the latter earning WAC all-tournament honors when she replaced the injured Mafua.

The toughest battles appear to be for the second middle blocker position and libero. Hawaii has plenty of depth at both.

Redshirt freshman Brittany Hewitt “;has the leg up”; for the second middle spot, according to Shoji. Besides the 6-foot-4 Hewitt, there is 6-1 senior Cat Fowler, 6-4 sophomore Alexis Forsythe, a transfer from Houston Baptist, and freshmen Kristiana Tuaniga (6-2) and Paige Mitchell (6-1).

The libero corps has two veterans in senior Jayme Lee and junior Elizabeth Ka'aihue. Also on the 18-player roster are redshirt freshman Emily Maeda; Kamehameha product Alexis Robins, a junior transfer from Portland; Alex Griffiths, a junior transfer from Vanguard (Calif.); and Kristina Kam, a true freshman out of Punahou.

As for win No. 1,000?

“;I haven't given it much thought,”; Shoji said. “;We've got more important things to concentrate on.”;

And that includes a challenging nonconference schedule with six teams in the preseason poll: Texas (2), Stanford (5), Cal (6), UCLA (10), Saint Louis (17) and Santa Clara (20).