Yogi eager to see Hawaii in the finals


POSTED: Thursday, December 17, 2009

TAMPA, Fla. » Forgive Sydney Yogi if she has a difficult time deciding to give the shaka or hook 'em — they're so similar, but the outstretched index finger instead of the thumb represents a world of difference. Maybe the Texas defensive specialist from Hawaii Kai and Punahou will flash one of each as she's introduced today at the St. Pete Times Forum for today's national semifinal volleyball match against Minnesota.

The islands will always be home, but the sophomore psychology major said she loves Austin too.

“;It's great; you can't compare it to anywhere else,”; Yogi said yesterday before Texas' final practice before the final four.

Coach Jerritt Elliott met Yogi after her freshman year at Punahou when Yogi and other Hawaii youth players were in a High Performance tournament in Austin.

“;We talked to them about our program, and she raised her hand to ask a question,”; Elliott said.

“;I asked if even someone my height (then 5-feet, now 5-2) could get recruited by Texas,”; Yogi said.

Elliott said, “;Yes, if you can dig balls and play with a lot of heart.”;

And that's what has happened so far, as she has averaged nearly two digs per set this season for the No. 2-ranked Longhorns.

If Texas and Hawaii advance to Saturday's final, Yogi will see some old high school friends across the net.

“;I went to school and played together with Liz (Ka'aihue) for three years and I got to play with Aneli (Cubi-Otineru) one year. It's always weird and fun to play against Hawaii,”; said Yogi, who also did so when the Longhorns beat the Rainbow Wahine in Honolulu in September.

Another local player, two-time Star-Bulletin Player of the Year Sarah Palmer of Hawaii Baptist, joins Yogi at Texas next year.

“;I don't know if I helped recruit her, but I answered some questions for her,”; Yogi said. “;I think she's the type of hard-working player that will do well with us and really enjoy it.”;

Yogi's mother, Laurie, and brother, Kelsey, are here in Tampa.

Wade will do color

UH men's head coach Charlie Wade — a former longtime assistant for Wahine coach Dave Shoji — will do color analysis for KKEA 1420's broadcast. He joins Blaine Kauwe, who is on the play-by-play.

Beth Mowins will call the play-by-play on ESPN2. Hall of Famer Karch Kiraly will handle the color.

UH has its share of fans

Around 125 people watched UH practice yesterday afternoon. A few were Hawaii fans and parents wearing Rainbows gear. Many were coaches, here for the AVCA convention.

Some Hawaii expatriates are hoping to come. One former Waimanalo resident e-mailed the Star-Bulletin to say he wasn't able to make today's semifinal, but should the Wahine advance to Saturday's championship, he'd make the 16-hour drive from Pennsylvania to watch.

The AVCA was to announce its Coach of the Year today. As a regional coach of the year, Shoji is eligible for the national award.

Senior Brandt honored

Hawaii senior reserve setter Stephanie Brandt received the NCAA Elite 88 academic award for women's volleyball at last night's final four banquet.

The award is presented to the player with the highest cumulative grade-point average participating at the finals site for each of the NCAA's 88 championships. Brandt is a senior in psychology. (Her GPA was not released because of UH's privacy policy).


Star-Bulletin writers Dave Reardon and Cindy Luis contributed to this story.