High expectations for No. 1


POSTED: Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Assigning uniform numbers can be as practical as giving the smallest player the lowest number, as random as giving a senior priority over a freshman, or as meaningless as giving out whatever's left over.

It also can be very psychological, a motivational tool that carries the full weight of what a certain number represents.

The latter is exactly why Stephanie Ferrell wanted to wear No. 1 and why, with some stipulations, Hawaii volleyball coach Dave Shoji wanted his outside hitter to have it.

“;I knew she was going to be a big part of this team when she was a redshirt freshman (in 2007),”; Shoji said. “;You have to be special to wear No. 1 and we've had some great ones.

“;To me, if you wear No. 1, you'd better be good.”;

Perhaps the best to wear it was Teee Williams, the two-time NCAA player of the year, who helped the Rainbow Wahine to their last national championship in 1987.

Ferrell's aspirations are to be that type of player, one that has the ability to take over a match. She saw several she'd like to emulate during last weekend's Hawaiian Airlines Classic, among them Juliann Faucette of Texas and Hana Cutura from Cal.

“;Hopefully, over time I can develop into that kind of player,”; she said. “;I don't think I can say I'm really a volleyball player yet. To me, a true volleyball player is someone like Aneli (Wahine senior hitter Cubi-Otineru) or Kanani (Wahine sophomore hitter Danielson), someone who has volleyball instinct, a real feel for the game.

“;If I keep working hard, hopefully by the time I graduate I'll be there.”;

Ferrell was late to the sport. College basketball appeared to be the ticket out of south central Los Angeles but a chance encounter with volleyball changed her mind.

“;Me and my younger brother were going to play basketball over at my middle school, but a (club) volleyball team was practicing,”; she said. “;I tried it, and I tried on the uniform. It fit.”;

Volleyball is well-suited to the 6-foot-1 Ferrell's athleticism and explosiveness. Injuries have hampered her development — a severe ankle sprain in 2007, a broken ankle last March — but she has shown flashes of brilliance, with a rocket of an arm and a steady improvement in her all-around game.

Although she is nowhere close to her 10-5 vertical jump, she played well in last week's tournament, including a career-high 18 kills and nine digs in the five-set loss to Cal on Sunday. Ferrell also is being allowed to serve and “;I'm very excited about that,”; she said. “;I've just started working on my jump serve and, hopefully, over the season I'll become more confident in it.

“;I want to be hitting out of the back row at some point, too. I'll take every opportunity I can to hit.”;

Ferrell, who turns 20 on Sunday, said she's had to alter her hitting because she's not jumping as high.

“;I am used to going over the block,”; she said. “;Now, I'm having to rely more on my shots, be a smarter volleyball player. It's helping my game.”;

“;She's still not 100 percent,”; Shoji said, “;and we thought she wouldn't be where she's at until much later in the season.

“;She's still learning to play on the left but when she gets hot, she can score. And she's doing a better job of taking that off play and doing something with it. She's never been in this situation before here. She's been the second or third option, but now she's one of the first options we have. She'll learn to carry out her responsibilities.”;

Which is why she asked Shoji for the No. 1 jersey in 2007, when she came to UH. It was the number she wore her senior year at Locke High, which she considered her best season.

“;He told me I had to work hard if I was going to have it,”; Ferrell said. “;I have worked very hard. My game is not where I want it to be, but I'm getting there.

“;I think the loss to Cal was more disappointing to me than the one to Texas. We were right there (up 8-6 in Set 5) and we should have won it. This is a chance for us to bounce back and show our character, play at the level we want to be playing.”;





        » No. 10 Stanford (3-2) vs. UT-San Antonio (2-5), 5 p.m.

» Weber State (1-6) at No. 6 Hawaii (4-2), 7 p.m.





        » Weber State vs. Stanford, 5 p.m.

» UT-San Antonio at Hawaii, 7 p.m.





        » UT-San Antonio vs. Weber State, 5 p.m.;

» Stanford at Hawaii, 7 p.m.