Wahine and 3 visitors try to meet challenge


POSTED: Thursday, September 10, 2009

Hawaii always has more requests than pukas for its volleyball tournaments. After several years of requests, things have finally worked out for Texas-San Antonio.

The reward for persistence? The Roadrunners' inaugural meeting with 10th-ranked Stanford in today's 5 p.m. opener of the Honolulu Advertiser Volleyball Challenge at the Stan Sheriff Center.

“;We're excited to play this level of competition,”; said former Rainbow Wahine associate coach and current UTSA assistant Howard Wallace. “;Whatever the scores are, we're hoping to get better. We'd like a win or two, but that's going to be tough.”;

Not as tough when compared to Hawaii's first two tournaments, which featured six teams in the Top 30. This three-day event has only two marquee names: the sixth-ranked Rainbow Wahine and the NCAA runner-up Cardinal.

For Hawaii, it's an opportunity to regroup after last week's two disappointing losses to Texas and Cal. And, if the situation allows, a chance to give several players who are pushing for starting spots a chance to get quality playing time, particularly sophomore hitter Corinne Cascioppo.

“;This is the week we concentrate on our side of the net,”; Wahine coach Dave Shoji said. “;Stanford (on Saturday) is in the backs of everyone's minds, but we need to concentrate on the two opponents before them.”;

“;We're not overlooking anyone,”; UH senior hitter Aneli Cubi-Otineru said. “;We should have beaten Cal, but Cal happened and we lost. We can't look back at that. We need to take care of the business in front of us.”;






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


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




It was pleasure before business for UTSA, which arrived in Honolulu yesterday and eschewed its practice time for a luau. Wallace said he was playing tour guide with stops at the beach and the Arizona Memorial during the team's stay.

“;For me, it's great to come home, even if it's fast and furious,”; he said. “;It's going to be a great all-around experience for the team and I'm excited.”;

No. 6 Hawaii (4-2)

The Wahine are riding a two-match losing streak, with last week's losses coming against No. 2 Texas and No. 10 Cal. The crowd (8,657 tickets) for the Texas match was the largest in the Stan Sheriff Center since the 2006 NCAA regional final against UCLA and the largest for a regular-season match since senior night in 2005 against Louisiana Tech.

UH has won its Volleyball Challenge 12 of the 15 times it has been played, including last season when going 3-0.

Although Western Athletic Conference play is two weeks away, the Wahine dominate the preseason statistics as the leaders in hitting percentage (.261), assists (13.22) and kills (13.83). Individually, senior middle Amber Kaufman leads the conference in hitting percentage (.410), sophomore hitter Kanani Danielson in kills (4.13), junior setter Dani Mafua in assists (11.58) and senior hitter Aneli Cubi-Otineru in service aces (16).

Hawaii leads the series with Weber State 2-0 and Stanford 17-13. This is the first meeting with Texas-San Antonio.

No. 10 Stanford (3-2)

This is the third consecutive road trip for the Cardinal, who fell to host Notre Dame in three and last week to No. 5 Florida in five.

While Stanford lost several All-Americans from last year's NCAA runner-up team, the Cardinal return two-time All-American hitter Alix Klineman, who needs 42 kills to reach the 1,000-kill mark. Junior hitter/setter Cassidy Lichtman leads the team in kills (3.74 kps) and had a triple-double (16 kills, 17 assists, 11 digs) in the loss to Florida. Junior libero Gabi Ailes holds the school record for single-season digs (533) and is 491 away from the mark of 1,597 held by Kristin Richards.

Stanford coach John Dunning is 21 wins away from 700. He has four NCAA titles to his credit, two at Pacific and two with the Cardinal.

This is the first meeting against UTSA for Stanford, which leads the series with Weber State 2-0. Hawaii is one of four teams that holds more than a .500 winning percentage against the Cardinal (17-13).

The director of volleyball operations is Cobey Shoji, daughter of Wahine coach Dave Shoji.

Texas-San Antonio (3-5)

The Roadrunners snapped a three-match skid Tuesday night with a 3-2 win against Cal State Bakersfield, giving coach Laura Neugebauer-Groff her school-record 115th victory. Among UTSA's losses are a sweep by then-No. 24 Purdue, the only ranked team so far on the schedule.

Junior hitter Kendra Rowland leads the Roadrunners in kills (2.65) and aces (8) and junior middle Briana Mason anchors the block (23). Sophomore libero Kelsey Jewasko had a career-high 31 digs in the win over CSUB.

The only team in the field UTSA has played previously is Weber State and the Wildcats hold a 2-0 series edge over the Roadrunners.

Weber State (1-6)

This is the Wildcats' third trip to Honolulu and first since 2003 when they faced Stanford and Utah State in the Wahine Invitational. Their first was in 1983 when they got swept by eventual NCAA champion Hawaii and also dropped two at Hawaii-Hilo.

Weber State has lost its last four, three by sweeps, since picking up the lone win (3-2 over Gonzaga) on Aug. 29.

The Wildcats opened the year with a 3-1 loss to WAC member Utah State. Weber State was swept by then-No. 23 Kansas State last weekend in its only match against a Top 25 team.

Senior hitter Chelsea Bair (3.0 kps) is third in career kills (1,353) and needs 13 to pass WSU assistant Stephanie Birch to move into second.

WSU coach Al Givens (194-289) is in his 17th season.