Grand! Shoji hits the millennium milestone


POSTED: Sunday, October 18, 2009

A legend. An icon. A coach's coach. A player's coach.

It's not just a resume. It IS Dave Shoji.

Last night, Shoji became the second Division I women's volleyball coach to win 1,000 matches when the No. 3 Rainbow Wahine defeated New Mexico State 25-13, 22-25, 25-21, 25-8 at the Stan Sheriff Center. He reached it 18 matches into his 35th season, in his 1,176th contest, raising his career winning percentage to .851.

“;It takes a special person to have the patience to do what we do, and to do it for so long, and to be successful for so long,”; losing Aggies coach Mike Jordan said. “;You've got to do a lot of things right to stay at or near the top for that many years.

“;The 1,000-match winner is going the way of the 300-game winner in baseball. It's not going to happen much longer or very often. It's impressive and it should be celebrated.”;

It was. Buried under a mountain of confetti, Shoji joined UCLA's Andy Banachowski in the 1,000-win club.

“;I am quite happy for Dave,”; Banachowski said. “;He's been a great coach and leader in the volleyball community, and the wins reflect his dedication and passion to the sport. He is a very casual, relaxed guy who lets his teams battle in the spotlight. Yet he has an underlying competitive spirit that rises to the challenges. His teams reflect that, too.”;

Four national titles, 106 postseason victories, 34 All-America honorees, countless fans in the stands and in the coaching ranks.

“;The greatest sign of respect is when someone tries to follow you,”; said Penn State's Russ Rose, 17 wins away from becoming the next—and perhaps the last—1,000-match winner. “;When I first got into coaching, I liked the style of those early Hawaii teams, smaller girls who played hard and could outlast you.

“;I have such great admiration for him. He's a great guy, and he and Reyn Spooner are the only reasons I'd spend 20 hours in a sardine can of a plane to come to Hawaii and play.”;



Balls can take funny bounces.

Consider the volleyball that bounced into Dave Shoji's life court. Had it hit the career net and stayed on Chris McLachlin's side, the celebration for the second Division I women's volleyball coach to reach 1,000 victories might have been for McLachlin, the retired Punahou School coach, and not Shoji, his former assistant.

It was McLachlin to whom Dr. Donnis Thompson first offered the job in 1975, a part-time position that paid around $2,000. He decided to remain at Punahou, where he coached and taught until retiring in 2007.

McLachlin recommended Shoji “;because Dave not only knew the game of volleyball, he was really natural at coaching,”; said McLachlin, KFVE volleyball commentator for the past 20-something years. “;He was really eager to become a really good coach. Not that he hung on my every word, but he was constantly asking questions and working hard to hone his craft.

“;I bombarded him with a lot of (retired UCLA basketball coach) John Wooden's quotes. The one he really took to heart was 'Excellence is a noble pursuit.'”;


        ”;This is shared with all the players, coaches, staff. You just don't do this alone.”;
        —Coach Dave Shoji

Shoji has pursued excellence for 35 seasons, and last night it turned around and caught him. With last night's victory over New Mexico State, Shoji joined UCLA's Andy Banachowski (1,096) in the very elite club.

“;Everyone says what a great game coach he is,”; former UH assistant Dean Nowack (1982-89) said. “;What impressed me—and I had been involved with a lot of coaches, even at the pro level—was how organized and efficient his practices were. As good a game coach he is, he is a fantastic practice coach.

“;He also hasn't embraced or expected the notoriety like a lot of coaches. Getting to 1,000, even if you average 25 wins, it's going to take you 40 years. It's just not going to happen many more times.”;

It will happen once more, perhaps this year. Penn State's Russ Rose is at 983 after yesterday's victory over Michigan State and if the Nittany Lions remain undefeated the rest of the season, Rose would get No, 1,000 on Dec. 17 in an NCAA semifinal.

“;For me to be in the same conversation as Andy and Dave would be a beautiful thing,”; Rose said.

What has kept Shoji at the top for so long is his ability to adapt. The sport itself has changed, with the move to the international rally-scoring system, and his coaching style has played to the strengths of his players, physically and mentally.

“;I was always struggling against UCLA and middle blocker Leslie Knudsen,”; Terry Malterre, a senior All-America middle on the 1979 title team. “;Dave brought me to reality saying, 'You need to change your mind-set, tell yourself you can play just as good as her.'

“;What a concept. Beating them was a turning point for me. He's always been a man of few words, but when he spoke, it was always worth listening to.”;

“;He knew the game from the beginning—the offenses and defenses, who would function best in what situation,”; said Beth McLachlin, Chris' wife, who played two seasons for Shoji (1975, '77). “;The girls who have come out of the program appreciate and respect him. He's doing an even better job now than when he coached me.”;

“;He recruited me when I was 17 and it's surreal how fast the time has gone,”; said current associate coach Kari Anderson Ambrozich, who played from 1991 to 1994. “;I've stayed because it was the opportunity to work with the best. You can't pass that up.

“;Dave's changed and he hasn't. He still has this intense desire to win and is still very humble. But he's also evolved as the game has changed. You have to be at the level he's at. It's a very exciting time for him and the program.”;

The magnitude has slowly sunk in.

“;All the wins have to be shared with all the players, the coaches and staff,”; Shoji said. “;You don't just do this job alone. You have to have a lot of help. It's a tribute to all the people who have ever been involved with the program and all of our fans who have been so supportive all this time.”;




10 Memorable Shoji Firsts ...

        ; ... WIN

Hawaii's inaugural season under Dave Shoji had no home matches and seven playing dates. There also was no height on the 10-member roster, with 5-foot-11 Terry Malterre at least 4 inches taller than the rest of her teammates.


The Wahine opened at UC Riverside on Oct. 29, 1975, turning back the host Highlanders, 15-17, 15-6, 15-13, 15-11.


That first road trip included the NIVT at UCLA, where the Wahine dropped their first match of the season to the host Bruins. Hawaii didn't lose again until falling to UCLA six weeks later 15-11, 15-12 in the AIAW championship match in Princeton, N.J.


; ... HOME WIN


It was historic, that victory in Klum Gym on Sept. 25, 1976.


The Wahine opened the season with two losses to UCLA in as many days and at as many sites. The first in four in a time-limit match at the Blaisdell Arena, the second in five at War Memorial Gym on Maui.


The third time was a charm. Hawaii rallied to beat UCLA—and coach Andy Banachowski, above—for the first time in six meetings, 8-15, 15-10, 9-15, 15-12, 15-3. The Bruins got their revenge 10 weeks later when downing the Wahine 15-11, 10-15, 15-11 for the AIAW title.


It remains the longest running rivalry for Hawaii, which holds a 35-32 series lead.




The landscape was different for women's collegiate athletics in the years prior to becoming part of the NCAA. The AIAW season ran in the fall, with many schools also sending teams to the USVBA open championship in the spring.


Senior Joey Akeo, left, and sophomore Terry Malterre, right, were collegiate All-America picks in 1977—the first of 34 for Shoji. That year, UH lost to USC 12-15, 15-6, 15-7, 15-6 for the AIAW championship.


“;I think the players all knew that this was the beginning of something great,”; said Akeo, who was the first Wahine to have a daughter play for Shoji (Tehani Miyashiro 1997-98).




From its first year as a college program (1974), Hawaii had been successful, with two second-place finishes and three thirds. The senior-laden Wahine finally broke through in 1979, rallying past nemesis and defending AIAW champ Utah State, 8-15, 7-15, 15-9, 16-14, 15-12, in Carbondale, Ill.


Bonnie Gouveia had an ace, Waynette Mitchell put down two kills and Terry Malterre added a block and a kill to gain match point at 14-8. The Aggies closed to 14-12, but the Wahine got a kill by Gouveia to give Shoji the first of his four championships. Mitchell, Malterre, Angie Andrade and Diane Sebastian were all-tourney picks.




Diane Sebastian came in as the program's first legitimate mainland recruit and left a three-time All-American. She was in love with Hawaii before her scholarship offer, having played in a tournament in Honolulu while in high school.


“;It came down to Hawaii and UCLA,”; she said. “;I have no regrets. At UCLA, I would have been just one of a thousand athletes, not the focus of an entire state.


“;I still remember the sweet Hawaiian ladies bringing us sushi. I was a haole girl expecting chocolate chip cookies.”;


She also met her future husband during her career: UH men's player Tom Pestolesi.




Eleven years as an independent brought three national titles but also the realization Hawaii would need to be in a conference. The Wahine joined the Pacific Coast Athletic Association, later renamed the Big West Conference, in 1985.


An intense rivalry with Pacific was born with Hawaii finally getting the upper hand in 1987, not only with the conference championship but also a huge regional final win over the Tigers that propelled the Wahine into the final four.


No one epitomized the fighting spirit more than captain Reydan “;Tita”; Ahuna, a two-time All-America honoree who remains in the top 10 of five career categories.




Few players had the same impact as Tonya “;Teee”; Williams, the dynamic outside hitter who was named the NCAA Player of the Year her first season as a Wahine (1987). Although Hawaii's last national title team was heavy with senior starters, Williams was the star as a sophomore. In the final against Stanford, she had 21 kills, hit .386 and had 13 digs. A three-time All-American, Williams shared co-player of the year honors in 1989 with Long Beach State's Tara Cross. Williams was 99-8 in her three seasons and was the career leader in kills (1,973) until being passed by Kim Willoughby.




Hawaii's setters have always been known for “;sweet hands,”; and Kanoe Kamana'o had two of the sweetest, carrying on the legacy established by the likes of Joyce Ka'apuni, Nahaku Brown and Robyn Ah Mow. As a freshman in 2003 she had the Wahine back in the final four, a 36-2 season ending with a semifinal loss to Florida. Kamana'o is one of two four-time All-America honorees in Hawaii history—the other being middle blocker and 1996 National Player of the Year Angelica Ljungquist. Kamana'o became UH's all-time career leader as a junior, finishing with 6,428, and ranks No. 7 all-time in the NCAA.




Deitre Collins, who anchored the middle for the two-time NCAA champions (1982-83), was recognized as the top female athlete in college athletics in 1983. In leading the Wahine to back-to-back titles, Collins had 25 kills and seven blocks in the five-set win over USC in the 1982 title match, and 16 kills and eight blocks in the sweep of UCLA in 1983. Hawaii was 104-5 in her final three years and Collins was an All-American in all of them. She ranks in the top 10 of six career categories. Collins went on to play in two Olympics and is in her first year as San Diego State coach.




Middle blocker Suzanne Eagye was a raw talent as a freshman who blossomed into one of the best all-around players by her senior season (1987). With a killer smile that matched her armswing, Eagye is the only Wahine to be in three statistical clubs for the program: 1,000 kills (1,553) 1,000 digs (1,138) and 500 blocks (743). The all-time block leader remains in the top 10 in seven career categories. The two-time All-American won the 1987 Honda Award as the top volleyball player in the country. She had a triple-double in the 1987 NCAA title match with 10 kills, 12 digs and 12 blocks.






Dave Shoji's career coaching record:

1975162.889AIAW, runner-up
1976145.737AIAW, 3rd
1977225.815AIAW, runner-up
197828 *10.731AIAW, 3rd
1979365.878AIAW, champion
19803410.773AIAW, 3rd
1981372.949NCAA, regional final
1982331.971NCAA, champion
1983342.944NCAA, champion
19843311.750NCAA, 1st round
19852813.683NCAA, regional semifinal
1986317.816NCAA, regional final
1987372.949NCAA, champion
1988333.917NCAA, runner-up
1989293.906NCAA, regional final
1990286.824NCAA, regional semifinal
1991265.839NCAA, regional final
19921512.556No postseason
19931911.633NCAA, regional final
1994255.833NCAA regional semifinal
1995311.969NCAA, regional final
1996353.921NCAA, runner-up
1997258.768NCAA, first round
1998323.914NCAA, regional final
1999292.935NCAA, regional semifinal
2000312.939NCAA, 3rd
2001296.829NCAA, regional semifinal
2002342.944NCAA, 3rd
2003362.947NCAA, 3rd
2004301.968NCAA, regional semifinal
2005277.794NCAA, regional semifinal
2006296.829NCAA, regional final
2007276.818NCAA, 2nd round
2008314.886NCAA, regional final
Total*1,000 175.851

* Includes one tie