Wednesday, August 25, 1999
"What I didn't count on was the seniors who had it in their hearts not to quit.''Dave Shoji
on his 1979 team, the first of four national title winners
University of Hawaii women's volleyballBy Cindy Luis
has become synonymous with success.
Much of it can be traced to a frigid Illinois
night in December of '79 when a gritty
team won the first of the Wahine's
four national titles
This is the first in a series of Wednesday features, celebrating Hawaii's first national volleyball championship in 1979.OH, YE OF LITTLE FAITH.
However, no one would have blamed Dave Shoji for having his doubts on that cold December night 20 years ago.
His University of Hawaii women's volleyball team had been there before, within reach of the AIAW national title. In his four previous years as the Wahine's head coach, Shoji had his team so close, and yet so far, with two runner-up finishes and two third-place trophies.
So here was undersized and underdog Hawaii -- without all-American setter Rocky Elias -- trailing nemesis Utah State, 8-15, 7-15, in the championship match at the Southern Illinois arena in Carbondale, Ill.
"In the back of my mind, I was probably thinking, 'Oh, no, not again,' '' Shoji recalled. "We had been in this situation before and it always was a matter of the physical talent of the team on the other side of the net.
"Utah State was big, big by even today's standards, and we were relatively undersized even for that time. We were playing about as well as we could but unless the momentum changed, we were going down in three.''
No one is quite sure how it happened. The collective memory of the Wahine players was one of Hawaii continuing to play well and the Aggies finally making a few mistakes.
An hour later, the Wahine had evened the match and taken a 14-12 lead in Game 5 against the disbelieving Aggies. Senior Waynette Mitchell served aloha ball and 5-foot-8 Bonnie Gouveia put down the final kill to cap a remarkable comeback, 8-15, 7-15, 15-9, 16-14, 15-12.
"What I didn't count on was the seniors who had it in their hearts not to quit,'' said Shoji. "I know that everyone wanted to win but I don't think anyone expected that we were going to win it in reality.
"Going into the tournament, we had a big question mark about setting. Rocky was such a huge part of the team but she just couldn't go (sprained ankle).''
Instead, senior Diana McInerny was thrust into the unexpected role as one of two starting setters. Senior Angie Andrade was the other in the 6-2 offense (6 hitters, 2 setters).
Shoji credited the depth and versatility of his bench, as well as the overall experience as what led to Hawaii's first national title.
Five of the Wahine players - Terry Malterre, Nahaku Brown, Elias, Mitchell and Gouveia - had won the 1978 AAU national championship playing for Nick's Fishmarket. Elias and Paula Gusman were on the junior national team together; Malterre, Cheryl Grimm and Diane Sebastian were named collegiate all-Americans in 1978.
"That '79 group had played a lot of volleyball, even before they got into our program,'' said Shoji. "For that era, we had a very experienced team.''
It was a team of strong personalities that often clashed on the court during the practice. But it was also a team that put aside differences to work for a common goal -- the national championship.
"That was the dark ages for volleyball,'' said Shoji, who has remained at Manoa through this, his 25th season. "Volleyball has become a major sport in women's athletics, growing to about 300 teams as opposed to maybe 50 teams 20 years ago.''
In the years since then, Hawaii has gone on to hang three more banners. The NCAA titles came in 1982, 1983 and 1987.
Shoji and the Wahine have become synonymous with success, both on the court and in the stands. Hawaii has been the national attendance leader the past four seasons, averaging more than 7,000 fans a night at the Stan Sheriff Center since 1994
It was a course plotted 20 years ago, steered by a group of determined young women who made history on a snowy night in Illinois.
Name -- Pos. -- Ht. -- Cl.
Angie Andrade -- S -- 5-6 -- Sr
Kyra Bjornsson -- MB -- 5-10 -- Fr.
Nahaku Brown -- S -- 5-9 -- So.
Rocky Elias -- S/H -- 5-8 -- Sr.
Bonnie Gouveia -- H -- 5-8 -- Sr.
Cheryl Grimm -- H -- 5-5 -- Sr.
Paula Gusman -- H -- 5-9 -- Sr.
Candy Kane -- H -- 5-9 -- Fr.
Terry Malterre -- MB -- 5-10 -- Sr.
Diana McInerny -- S -- 5-6 -- Sr.
Waynette Mitchell -- H -- 5-8 -- Sr.
Diane Sebastian -- MB -- 6-0 -- So.