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UH's Kaufman calms down


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POSTED: Wednesday, September 02, 2009

That Amber Kaufman is an All-American high jumper should come as no surprise.

She is constantly raising the bar ... on the track, on the volleyball court, on her expectations.

Kaufman admits to wearing her emotions on her sleeve but, truth be told, that is too subtle of an explanation for her competitiveness. She wears her emotions more like a tattoo — of which she has several.

Tattoos are bold. They're a commitment, a statement, an often misunderstood form of expression.

Much like Kaufman.

The senior middle for No. 4 Hawaii has a reputation — deserved or not — for a temper. But, as she sees it, it's frustration not anger, born out of real hatred of losing.

“;People will see only what they want to see,”; Kaufman said. “;They don't see that I get the most excited out of anybody when my teammates do well, that I'm the one jumping and yelling and cheering the most. I don't get credit for that.

“;All people see is the frustration. It's because I want to win the most. I was relatively frustrated against UCLA (Sunday) but it was nowhere near as bad as I can get.”;

Her temper has been tempered. It was obvious Sunday when, a day after hitting a career-best .765 against Santa Clara, Kaufman was hitting negative .600 after Set 1 against the Bruins.

“;I decided that if I wasn't going to hit well I'd have to do other things to help us win,”; said Kaufman, who set the UH ace record with 11 last year against Washington. “;As a freshman, I wouldn't have done that, would have shut down.

“;I had to take a step back, focus on serving and defense. I finally got a kill at the end of Game 2. I really needed that, to be able to go into the locker room feeling good. And I got out of (hitting) negative. It's nice to know you're able to come back after playing poorly.”;

It's a sign of maturity for Kaufman, who turned 21 two weeks ago.

“;I know it was hard for her, UCLA was definitely camping out on her,”; Rainbow Wahine setter Dani Mafua said. “;But she accepted what was going on and found other ways to help, making great digs, serving well.

“;What I've seen from the past years is she's more confident. She owns that position on the left. I trust that she's going to be there (on the step-out move). She's such an awesome athlete.”;

“;We know what she can do,”; Hawaii coach Dave Shoji said. “;She hung in there, got three kills in that last game, which were critical for us.

“;I think her high jump success has boosted her confidence, to be third in the nation in her secondary sport is impressive. We knew she could play volleyball, but to play at the top level at 6-feet is difficult. She's matured in her game. I'm no longer surprised by her hang time but it is uncanny. She and (former Wahine middle) Victoria Prince are similar-type players, but Amber is more athletic. She's even more the player than what I thought she'd be.”;

And perhaps more of a success in high jumping than even Kaufman expected. She's the two-time defending Western Athletic Conference champion, finished third last spring and eighth in 2008 at the NCAA championships, and placed 12th at the 2008 U.S. Olympic trials.

If she wants to continue professionally, track is likely her future.

“;I don't know what I'm going to do,”; the San Jose, Calif., native said. “;I really, really like volleyball, but I'm not that great. Track would be easier, it would be less fun but I'd be more successful. I have yet to reach my potential.”;

What she has reached is a school- and WAC-record jump of 6 feet, 4 inches. It was good enough for third, but not good enough to beat Texas' Destinee Hooker, who won her third straight title with a jump of 6-4.75.

The two will see each other across the net Saturday when No. 4 Hawaii plays No. 2 Texas. Hooker, a 6-4 senior hitter, was named the Big 12 volleyball player of the week yesterday.

“;I don't look ahead at the schedule, but playing Texas excites me,”; Kaufman said. “;I'm the poor man's Destinee Hooker. She's been just a little bit better than me in two disciplines. She's accomplished what I want to.

“;We became friends (at the Olympic trials). When I jumped 1.93 (meters, or 6-4), it turned into a competition. I'd like to get her just once.”;

               

     

 

HAWAIIAN AIRLINES CLASSIC

        All matches will be available on KKEA 1420-AM and on pay per view channel 255:

        Tomorrow

        » No. 2 Texas (2-0) vs. No. 10 California (2-1), 5 p.m.

        » No. 19 Saint Louis (2-1) at No. 4 Hawaii (3-0), 7 p.m.

        Saturday

        » California vs. Saint Louis, 5 p.m.

        » Texas at Hawaii, 7 p.m.

        Sunday

        » Saint Louis vs. Texas, 3 p.m.

        » California vs. Hawaii, 5 p.m.