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Star-Bulletin Sports

Thursday, December 7, 2000

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


Wahine not afraid
to play Duggins

The 6-foot freshman waits
in the wings for her chance
to shine on the volleyball court

By Pat Bigold

Don't be surprised to see 6-foot freshman Lauren Duggins play some critical minutes for Hawaii tonight against Long Beach State.

She's the third-string middle blocker on Dave Shoji's depth chart and that's a position which will get a lot of attention in the match against Long Beach State.

The 49ers are big up front and they can pound.

Duggins said she believes All-Western Athletic Conference freshman middle blocker Maja Gustin will start and play tough against the 49ers, despite her sprained ankle.

But she realizes that if Gustin needs a break, or feels any renewed pain, she or junior Tanja Nikolic will be called into action.

"It's kind of exciting to think about and it gets the adrenaline going because Long Beach has a pretty good offense and they're pretty quick," she said.

"But I know that if there's a definite need for Maja against Long Beach, which there is, she's going to tough it out."

Shoji said he won't hesitate to use her.

"She's become a very efficient blocker and a much better attacker over the course of the season," he said.

Duggins came to light as a potentially key contributor to the Wahine offense on Nov. 16 when she started and had 10 kills in just two games against Nevada at the Stan Sheriff Center.

"She's just come on in the past month," said Shoji. "In practice, she's given our team a hard time."

Unfortunately for Duggins, she suffered a painfully bruised tailbone after the Nevada match which sidelined her for four matches. But she's completely healthy again, and contributed to the win over Utah last weekend.

But Shoji said Duggins will probably move to the right side next season.

"I think her best position will be the right where she can block on the line and hit off of one foot," he said. "But that depends on what our team chemistry is next season."

What Shoji liked about the Fullerton, Calif., native when he recruited her was that she can move.

"She has great foot speed from antenna to antenna, blocking wide," he said. "She blocks well and puts her hands over the net. She's just going to get more physical as she gets stronger."

Duggins said she felt comfortable about coming to Hawaii.

"I have a lot of family here which made it easier for me," said Duggins, who has Chinese and Hawaiian blood on her mother's side. "When I was little, we used to come here for the summers."

She said her family, grandparents and friends in California listen to Wahine matches on the internet throughout the season.

"They always want me to call as soon as I get home and tell them all about it," said Duggins.

Her family also tries to make it to as many mainland matches as possible.

"Like Nevada, Long Beach, Fresno," she said. "And my grandfather flew to Oklahoma."

In high school Duggins played all positions.

"But for club volleyball, I was trained as a middle," she said.

Her club went on to win a junior national championship. Duggins said playing middle blocker at the Division I level is a good deal different from club ball.

"It was comfortable in club with the slower pace, but I've had to work a little harder in college ball," said Duggins. "But I like it."

She said she likes the responsibilities the position entails.

"You can run a number of different plays and where you go depends on where the ball goes," said Duggins. "You can take the middle from the other team and hold them so there'll be a one-on-one situation on the outside."

Shoji, who already has the WAC's co-freshmen of the year in Gustin and Kim Willoughby, thinks he also scored in landing Duggins.

"She figures big into the future for us," he said.

Ticket tally: There were 7,600 tickets sold for tonight's match, as of last night. In order for today's matches to be shown live on KFVE-TV, 8,000 tickets must be sold.

UH Athletics

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