Star-Bulletin Sports

Friday, September 7, 2001


Hawaii's Maja Gustin, who had four kills last night,
slugged one past Utah's Chelsi Neves.

Hawaii sweeps
Utah State

The Wahine improve to 3-3
and show signs that things
are coming together

By Grace Wen

Slowly but surely, the Hawaii volleyball team is putting together the pieces of the puzzle.

The Wahine added another piece last night when sophomore Lauren Duggins turned in a solid all-around performance with six kills, six blocks and 10 digs.

A smallish crowd of 3,832 (6,601 tickets were issued) watched Hawaii defeat Utah State 30-23, 30-12, 30-18 in the opening night of the seventh annual Aston Imua Challenge.

The Wahine ruined the homecoming of former Warrior Matt Johnson (now an assistant coach with the Aggies) and freshman Melissa Wilton, an all-state player at Punahou.

"We served well," Hawaii coach Dave Shoji said. "We played good defense, spirited defense tonight. We got a lot of balls up close to the ground.

"Lauren played a lot more aggressive. She's going to be a good player. She got involved and touched a lot more balls."

And with every match the Wahine play, more players get involved and become more comfortable.

"It's getting easier and easier to concentrate on things that are going on (as opposed to) the crowd," Duggins said. "We're communicating more and we're mentally there. If everybody does their part, then we'll come together as a team, as a whole."

The Wahine defense forced 21 hitting errors from the Aggies en route to notching 10 blocks and holding Utah State to an .071 attack. Meanwhile, Hawaii hit .289, with Kim Willoughby and Tanja Nikolic both in double-digit kills at 18 and 13.

Hawaii also served Utah State off the court with nine aces.

"They kept pressure on us and we didn't respond very well," Utah State coach Burt Fuller said. "This environment maybe overwhelmed some of us. Our kids were nervous. It's not us, Hawaii did a great job on the other side. They had good hitting numbers ... We haven't been outdug all year and they outdug us by 20."

Except for a 4-2 Aggie lead in game one, the Wahine never trailed again in the match. Hawaii took an 11-9 lead off kills from Willoughby and Maja Gustin. The Wahine widened that lead at 19-13 with a block by Willoughby and Melody Eckmier. The Aggies were never closer.

A series of errors started and ended the second game for Utah State. Setter Chelsi Neves missed the ball and Tanya McArthur Birch served the ball into the net as Hawaii mounted a 4-1 lead. Not that the Wahine needed the help. Hawaii allowed only 11 more points and Nikolic closed out the game with two of her three aces.

"We expended the least amount of energy, but we needed to make it a fast match if we could," Shoji said. "Tomorrow night will be tough, and we just couldn't go four or five tonight."

"USC is awfully talented and it will be a good test for us. They're more balanced than UCLA. They're big and they don't have a blocking weakness."

Hawaii plays USC at 7 p.m.

USC swept Cincinnati 30-19, 30-23, 30-13 in the early match.

The Women of Troy dominated the smaller Bearcats, who were mismatched from the start. USC outhit Cincinnati .331 to .065 and shut down the Bearcat offense with 13 blocks.

Keao Burdine led the Trojans with 15 kills. Jennifer Pahl chipped in 11 kills and posted seven blocks.

Note: Hawaii leads the all-time series 18-14 against USC. The two squads last met in 1999 at the Imua Challenge. The Wahine won in four games.

UH Athletics
Ka Leo O Hawaii

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