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Star-Bulletin Sports

Monday, October 16, 2000

W A H I N E _ V O L L E Y B A L L

By George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin
Freshman Maja Gustin, left, is one of the heavy hitters
for Hawaii volleyball team.

Gustin makes
hard-hitting impact

The freshman middle blocker
from Slovenia has helped Wahine
volleyball team to No. 2-ranking

Another WAC win for UH

By Pat Bigold

She marches to the net with the cold poise of a Balkan princess.

Extending her powerful arms skyward, she glares through the strings at her opponents.

The expression is unnerving.

UH There seems little doubt that Maja Gustin is ruler of all she surveys on the other side of the court.

The 6-foot-2 freshman middle blocker, already one of the nation's leaders in blocks, creates a wall as impenetrable as the Pohorje Hills she skied in her native Slovenia.

When it comes time to deliever a kill, Gustin unleashes a thundering right hand with the rush of an Alpine avalanche.

Her velocity even amazes Dave Shoji, head coach of the No. 2 University of Hawaii Wahine.

"People in the upper sections of the arena just can't hear the force when she gets on top of the ball," said Shoji. "But if you're down low, you can hear the ball hit the floor. The thump is pretty loud."

Shoji said Gustin and Lily Kahumoku have the two hardest hits on the team, and he suggested it might be interesting to put a speed gun on the two some day.

He said he had high expectations about Gustin when she left the Slovenian national team and came to Hawaii this year.

"We're glad she's as physical as she is because that's exactly what we needed," he said.

"We just didn't expect her to be this good. I think we would've been a good team even if she wasn't this good. But it's apparent now that she's one of the better players in the country.

Her 1.69 blocks per game puts Gustin atop the Western Athletic Conference and among the NCAA's leaders.

By George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin
Maja Gustin (12) has been a force in the middle, along with
Wahine teammates Lily Kahumoku, left,
and Kim Willoughby, right.

"In Slovenia we don't keep all those stats, but it motivates me to know this," she said.

Gustin's deceptively accelerating ball has made her a constant threat for a service ace. She also leads the Wahine in that category (0.33 per game, 16 in all) and is seventh in the WAC.

"I think the serve is the easiest way to get points," she said. "I looked for my best service a long, long time. I tried everything. Then one day it just came, and I said, that's it!"

Shoji said that despite the deadly serious aire she conveys at game time, Gustin has been a delight to have on the team.

"She doesn't smile a lot out there on the court," said Shoji. "She's all business. But off the court, she can loosen up. She's actually a pretty funny girl."

Gustin will flash the broad smile she'd never show an opponent when she talks about life in Slovenia.

Back at home, volleyball was her primary sport growing up but she also spent many of her happiest hours playing tennis and slalom skiing on the slopes of the Pohorje range on the outskirts of her home city of Maribor.

"Night skiing was the best," said Gustin. "It was such a good feeling, with the lights and music.."

She misses Slovenian delicacies like struklji, (cheese and potatoes), krofi (cake filled with chocolate or jam), matevz (beans with vegetables),and her favorite, potica (cake with nuts).

But she's adjusted well. "Now I love sushi and I love going to the beach on Sundays," she said.

Gustin played against some of the best players in Europe, including athletes who competed for the Olympic silver medalist Russians.

"I played in Russia, Israel, Turkey, Slovakia, Italy, Germany, Lithuania, Spain, Croatia and Hungary," she said.

The daughter of a police officer, she grew up during the time Slovenia gained its independence and lost her father in the early 1990s. Gustin said her late father was 6-4 and played a rugged brand of club basketball.

"My father was like me, a very strong person, very physical," she said.

Wahine drop a game
but win battle

By Pat Bigold

University of Hawaii head women's volleyball coach Dave Shoji called the Wahine's rare Game 2 loss on the road Saturday at the University of Nevada-Reno "just a hiccup."

"Actually it might have been good for us to lose a game and think about what we need to do to get back into a match like that," said Shoji, whose Wahine (15-0 overall, 5-0 Western Athletic Conference) hadn't dropped a game since Sept. 23 when they beat (then-No. 8) Pepperdine.

No. 2 Hawaii won its 15th match without a loss with a 15-2, 10-15, 15-6, 15-5, victory over the Wolf Pack (7-10, 4-3) Saturday. It was the Wahine's 28th straight regular-season WAC win.

Tonight at 7 Hawaii will face Tulsa (15-6, 1-6) at the Stan Sheriff Center.

"We really needed to come back in the third game and take the crowd out of it," said Shoji, noting the boisterous Old Gymnasium record crowd of 1,052 .

Lily Kahumoku had a team-high 16 kills while Jessica Sudduth got the 25th double-double of her career (12 kills, 10 digs). Veronica Lima added 10 kills and a 14 digs.

"Lily continues to play well," said Shoji.

The Golden Hurricane were swept by San Jose State, 15-1, 19-17, 15-6, on Saturday.

"Tulsa's struggling now after getting off to a great start," said Shoji. "I'm sure they'd really like to win tonight."

It's a quick trip home for UH which heads back on the road Wednesday four four matches in eight days beginning at UTEP on Friday.

UH Athletics
Ka Leo O Hawaii

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