Idaho hopes for block party vs. UH


POSTED: Saturday, November 14, 2009

When Idaho visited the Stan Sheriff Center in September, the fire alarm accidentally went off toward the end of the Vandals' practice.

It was the next night, however, that Idaho found itself in a real emergency situation. The Vandals' vaunted block—ranked No. 1 in the country—was shredded by host Hawaii in an 80-minute sweep where the Rainbow Wahine hit .374, and outblocked the visitors 9-5.

Since then, the Vandals have gone 9-3 in Western Athletic Conference play and have assured themselves of at least a third-place finish in the WAC. Idaho remains the top blocking team in the country (3.15 bps), led by senior middles Debbie Pederson (1.50 bps) and Anna McKinney (1.45 bps) who are ranked among the top 12 nationally.

Idaho, coming off Thursday's sweep of San Jose State, has much to play for when it hosts No. 3 Hawaii today. A win over the Rainbow Wahine (24-2, 14-0) would not only be huge for the program, but it would keep alive the slim hope that the Vandals would finish second in the WAC and earn the tournament's second seed; Idaho is a game behind second-place New Mexico State but, if the teams finish tied, the Vandals have the tiebreaker.





        » Who: No. 3 Hawaii (24-2, 14-0) at Idaho 14-13, 10-4)

        » When: 4 p.m. today

        » TV/Radio: None

        » Series: Hawaii leads, 12-0

“;I think our blocking and defense have gotten better since we played Hawaii,”; Idaho coach Debbie Buchanan said. “;Our biggest improvement has been on our offensive side, Our numbers are more consistent.

“;The focus is still the same as when we last played Hawaii. We want and need to be able to play high-percentage volleyball and control the things that we can control. And I think our middles have been the difference.”;

After playing their first 14 matches on the road, the Vandals have gone 6-1 at home, with their only loss coming to Gonzaga in five. Hawaii will be the highest-ranked opponent to ever appear in Memorial Gym.

“;This is the best team Hawaii has had for a while,”; Buchanan said. “;We always play better at home and, defensively, we will play them better than we did at their place.

“;We should be able to give them a better match because our team is getting better, not only skill-wise but in our mentality.”;

Hawaii coach Dave Shoji expects a tougher battle than the one on Sept. 26.

“;They present some problems with their block,”; said Shoji, whose team is riding a 20-match winning streak. “;We need to attack smart. If we can run our offense, we'll be fine.”;

The Wahine had an odd travel day yesterday, practicing in Boise, Idaho, then flying to Moscow. Because of the time difference within the state, Hawaii left Boise at 6:30 p.m. Mountain Standard Time and arrived in Moscow at 6:30 p.m. Pacific Standard Time.

Freshman middle Brittany Hewitt, who graduated from Eagle (Idaho) High, is cleared to play today. She sat out Thursday's win at Boise State with flu-like symptoms.