Rainbow Wahine open up with 3 games in California


POSTED: Tuesday, November 17, 2009

No one said new beginnings were easy.

The Hawaii women's basketball team and first-year coach Dana Takahara-Dias open the 2009-10 season today with a Golden State gauntlet: three straight road games through California, starting at UC Riverside at 1 p.m. Hawaii time.

Contests at UCLA on Thursday and at Cal State Bakersfield on Saturday follow in rapid succession.

UH went 8-23 (2-7 on the road) in 2008-09, the most single-season losses ever. During the strife-filled year, coach Jim Bolla was suspended and later fired for cause for allegedly kicking at a player in a fall practice.

The Rainbow Wahine are ready for a fresh start, regardless of the difficulty.

“;We look at every game as an opportunity to win,”; Takahara-Dias said. “;We've been very, very busy getting ready for all three opponents, but we also try to keep the focus on our team. We can execute, and (focus on) how well we can best win the games. We go into every game expecting and wanting to win.”;





        » Point guard: Keisha Kanekoa, 5-6, junior

        » Shooting guard: Leilani Galdones, 5-6, junior

        » Small forward: Breanna Arbuckle, 6-0, sophomore

        » Power forward: Allie Patterson, 6-1, junior

        » Center: Rebecca Dew, 6-3, sophomore

It was a bit of a scramble to complete a Division I-sanctioned schedule in the transition from Bolla to Takahara-Dias. As a result, the Wahine open on the mainland for the first time since 1985, when Takahara-Dias was a UH player. And it's the first time since 1977-78 that the Wahine play their first three games on the home court of each opponent.

But they will have solid support at each locale to back them up. Sophomore guards Jennifer Hamilton and Briauna Linton both hail from the Golden State, as does junior forward Allie “;Callie”; Patterson.

Combine that with strong California backgrounds for assistant coaches Da Houl and Serenda Valdez (both played high school ball there) and you have quite a following. All allotted comp tickets for UH were quickly expended for each of the three sites.

Even sophomore forward Breanna Arbuckle, of Chandler, Ariz., will have backup. Her mother and brother made a 5 1/2-hour trip to watch the three-game swing.


“;Any chance she can watch me play is good,”; Arbuckle said from Riverside, where the team arrived on Sunday. “;These games are going to be really hard, they're really going to test us and how we play in the WAC.”;

The Wahine had 26 turnovers in a 73-70 overtime exhibition win vs. Division II Hawaii Pacific two weeks ago. Takahara-Dias emphasized defensive improvement after that nail-biter, but also wanted her team to bond and stay loose — hence a dodgeball session during a practice at the Stan Sheriff Center last week.

UH is now healthy with the return of forward Dita Liepkalne from offseason knee surgery. The senior brings a well-rounded game from the post and is the team's most experienced player. She and freshman Shawna Kuehu are expected to bring some punch from the bench.

“;We've been working a lot with communication since the game against HPU,”; Liepkalne said. “;We had a lot of dumb turnovers. We've just been working on seeing the other person.”;

Junior college transfer Julita Bungaite was ruled ineligible for the first five games of the season by the NCAA because of a tournament the Lithuanian played in during high school, Takahara-Dias said. The infraction, which causes the forward to be out until the Wahine play San Francisco on Dec. 3, was self-reported by UH.

Riverside (1-1) has two games under its belt, a loss to Miami and a win vs. Northern Arizona. UCLA is also 1-1, while D-I independent Bakersfield is 0-2. There is no TV or radio coverage for any game.