Height not a problem for UH


POSTED: Tuesday, August 11, 2009

It was only the first day, but in the minds of the Hawaii volleyball players, it was the only day that mattered. The focus during the two sessions at the Stan Sheriff Center was on the here and now, because tomorrow's concerns were, well, tomorrow's concerns.

Two things were evident from yesterday's first whistle: Hawaii is deep and tall. There are 18 on the roster, and of the seven newcomers, four stand 6-foot-1 or taller, topping out at 6-4 sophomore transfer Alexis “;Lex”; Forsythe.

“;We do have some size,”; Hawaii coach Dave Shoji, opening his 35th season, said. “;But I'm most happy about the way the team came in physically. They all worked hard over the summer, even the new girls, who look like they've done some work and are ready.

“;Everyone on this team can play volleyball. There's no question about letting someone go, about cutting someone.”;

The questions will be about playing time. Hawaii returns four starters, including Western Athletic Conference freshman of the year Kanani Danielson, a third-team All-American.

The Wahine came into two-a-days healthy. Both senior hitter Aneli Cubi-Otineru and sophomore hitter Stephanie Ferrell looked to be at 100 percent following offseason surgery.

The only disappointment was freshman middle Kristiana Tuaniga being unable to practice. Her NCAA Clearinghouse paperwork has not finished processing, something Shoji hoped would be done within the week.

Yesterday's second session concluded with a scrimmage in which Danielson was again bombing away from the back row and junior setter Dani Mafua was connecting well with senior middle Amber Kaufman on the step-outs.

Making an early impression was Forsythe, a contender for the second middle position. She has excellent lateral quickness and made several stuff blocks during the scrimmage.

“;It's definitely a different start to the season for me,”; said Forsythe, who transferred after a season at Houston Baptist. “;Last year, the first practice was more technical.

“;This is a different environment; it's another level, but the level I wanted. I'm ecstatic. It's my dream come true.”;

Yesterday didn't come soon enough for Danielson.

“;I've been waiting for this ever since the end of spring ball,”; she said. “;It's great to be back working, all working for the same goal.

“;We have great chemistry off the court, but we're still looking for that mesh we need to go farther than last year. I think we've got what we need to get there.”;

Hawaii (31-4) was one win short of reaching its first final four since 2003. Advancing to Tampa, Fla. — site of this year's final four — is a goal for this year, but it's not the focus for the next two weeks.

“;We are focusing on the small things, getting better every day,”; Cubi-Otineru said. “;It's about the basics, working on the little things that can make a big difference.

“;It's about being focused every minute, every play, everything. That's what we're building every day.”;