Hawaii starts defense of its WAC tourney title tomorrow


POSTED: Monday, November 23, 2009

LAS VEGAS » It's a luxury Hawaii hasn't had since 2001, the last time the Rainbow Wahine didn't have to play the first day of the Western Athletic Conference volleyball tournament. Hawaii also has never had this few matches to earn the WAC's automatic berth into the NCAA tournament.

Thanks to the new format, in which only the top six teams made the trip here, the Rainbow Wahine need only two wins to advance to the postseason. Top-seeded Hawaii has a bye into tomorrow's semifinal and will take on the winner of today's match between No. 4 seed Nevada and No. 5 Fresno State.





        At Orleans Arena, Las Vegas

        (Seedings in parentheses)

        First round
Nevada (4) vs. Fresno State (5), 3 p.m.
        Idaho (3) vs. Boise State (6), 5:30 p.m.


New Mexico State (2) vs. Idaho/Boise St. winner, 3 p.m.
        Hawaii (1) vs. Nevada/Fresno State winner, 5:30 p.m.


Semifinal winners, 4:30 p.m.


Radio: All Hawaii matches, KKEA 1420-AM


TV: Wednesday, ESPNU (Oceanic 219)


Internet: Today and tomorrow on WAC.tv, $9.95 per day.




“;It doesn't matter who we play, it matters how we play,”; Hawaii coach Dave Shoji said. “;Our incentive is to win the WAC tournament. If we take care of our side of the net, then things will go our way.”;

Of the two, Fresno State was able to take a set off Hawaii. The Bulldogs did that at home in what Shoji called his team's most disappointing performance of the season.

Fresno State is 2-2 in the past two weeks, including Thursday's sweep at cellar-dwelling San Jose State.

Nevada defeated Fresno State twice this season, 3-2 in Reno and 3-1 in Fresno. The Wolf Pack are 1-2 since last seeing the Bulldogs on Nov. 9, and were beaten at Utah State in four in Thursday's regular-season finale.

On the other side of the bracket, second-seeded New Mexico State awaits the winner of the second Gem State Showdown in five days when Idaho and Boise State meet. The teams split this season, each winning at home, with Idaho doing it in straight sets Thursday behind Sarah Conwell's 16 kills. The Vandals, the top blocking team in the country, had 15 stuffs in holding the Broncos to a hitting percentage of .040.

If the seeding holds true, Idaho and New Mexico State meet in tomorrow's first semifinal. The teams split during the regular season, with the Vandals winning in four in Moscow, Idaho, and the Aggies holding on in five in Las Cruces, N.M.

“;Idaho is playing well and New Mexico State has been on a roll,”; Shoji said. “;It should be a tough, close match. Based on past experience, I'd have to stay with New Mexico advancing.”;

Should Hawaii and New Mexico State meet in Wednesday's final, it will be the third consecutive tournament the two play for the NCAA automatic berth. Of the other four teams in the field, only Nevada—in 2002 and '04—has played Hawaii in the championship match.

The Wahine have won all but two WAC tournaments, and their string of conference championships began in 1998, the last time the event was held here.