Star-Bulletin Sports

Thursday, September 27, 2001


Kim Willoughby has been the Wahine's prime
offensive force this season, including a 35-kill
match against Santa Clara on Friday.

Taking aim

The Wahine eye their
sixth straight WAC title after
1 of their rockiest preseasons

The competitors

By Grace Wen

Unchallenged for the better part of five years, the Hawaii volleyball team's supremacy in the Western Athletic Conference is on the line this season.

The Wahine took more lumps in preseason play than they have the past two years. But now Hawaii (6-4) has won three straight and is about to find out if it can survive conference play unscathed.

The Wahine won't be tested Saturday in the WAC opener against Louisiana Tech, but they will be glancing over their shoulders more frequently this season than in past years.

"On paper, we are more vulnerable," Hawaii coach Dave Shoji said. "We have a lot of young players in the lineup. I don't think we're as talented as we've been the past two, three years."

The talent level isn't the same but the Wahine were still the coaches' pick to win their sixth WAC title. Hawaii received nine first-place votes and 89 points. San Jose State was second with one first-place vote and 69 points. Nevada tallied 65 points for third place.

If the evidence was based solely on history, then the Wahine should have no trouble. Hawaii has only lost one match in five years. That's a 73-1 record for those of you who are counting. And that one loss?

It was to former conference foe Brigham Young University, now a member of the Mountain West conference.

The look of the WAC has changed slightly (Boise State and Louisiana Tech join the conference while Texas Christian University has departed), but the level of competition is probably the same.

" (WAC competition) will be better at the top," Shoji said. "I'm not sure about middle and the bottom. (Nevada) is obviously a very good team. San Jose is another team that could give us problems."

The Wahine are the only WAC team ranked in the AVCA top 25. Nevada and San Jose State have been close to breaking in but haven't yet.

WAC women’s volleyball
teams -- a closer look

By Grace Wen

Here's a look at the Western Athletic Conference's volleyball teams. Hawaii plays teams in the West Division twice (home and home) and East Division teams once.

West Division

San Jose State (9-2, 1-0)

Coach: Craig Choate, ninth year
2000 WAC record: 13-3
Players to watch: Savannah Smith, Brianna Blair, Christina Lukens, Liz Hudson, Kimberly Noble
Outlook: Replacing the career kill and block leader in All-American Joslyn Gallop will be tough, but the Spartans have five returning starters. Gallop remains with the team as an assistant coach. Smith is an experienced setter and leads the WAC in assists with 12.23 per game. Blair is second in the conference in hitting, pounding 4.51 kills a game. Hudson and Noble were All-WAC freshman honorees and are two of the toughest servers in the conference.

Nevada (7-1, 1-0)

Coach: Devin Scruggs, fifth year
2000 WAC record: 10-6
Players to watch: Michelle More, Navonna Chambers, Suzanne Stonebarger, Jill Couwenhoven
Outlook: The Wolf Pack are hungry this year and they've proved as much with a 7-1 start and a 3-0 sweep of then No. 7 Pacific, Scruggs' alma mater. The win only added to the confidence of this year's seniors, who have won five straight since a 3-2 loss to Santa Clara.
More is having a stellar senior season, leading Nevada hitters with 4.21 kills a game.

Fresno State (6-3, 1-0)

Coach: Lindy Vivas, 11th year
2000 WAC record: 6-10
Players to watch: Christy Burnett, Shauna McQuaid, Java Johnson, Kara Verwey
Outlook: Like the football team, the Bulldogs are looking to shock a few teams but will probably end up somewhere in the middle of the conference. Vivas, a Punahou grad, is four wins shy of collecting her 200th victory at Fresno State.
Johnson leads the team in hitting (3.72 kpg) and puts up a solid wall with McQuaid. McQuaid notches 1.41 blocks and Johnson averages 1.33 a game, ranking them second and third, respectively, in the conference.

Boise State (0-10, 0-2)

Coach: Fred Sturm, third year (former USA men's national team coach)
2000 WAC record: N/A, 3-13 Big West
Players to watch: Chera Sommer, Jacqueline Heler, Tameisha Hastings, Megan Tranter
Outlook: It's the first year in the conference for Boise State and it might be a welcome relief for the Broncos, who got stomped on last year in the Big West Conference. Boise State won only three conference matches and none against Top 25 teams.
The Broncos are picked to finish fourth in the WAC despite having a roster full of underclassmen and no seniors. Sophomore Megan Tranter leads the team in hitting with 3.12 kills per game. Preseason all-conference pick Heler leads the conference in digs with 4.17 and 3.12 kills.

East Division

Rice University (5-3, 0-0)

Coach: Julio Morales, 12th year
2000 WAC record: 6-10
Players to watch: Leigh Leman, Briana Cook, Elizabeth Davenport Pollock, Rebeca Pazo
Outlook: Defensively, Rice is strong, leading the WAC in blocking, with Cook topping the charts at 1.60 bpg. But it's the only category the Owls lead. Leman (3.70 dpg) is a two-year starter who needs only 65 digs to become the career leader at Rice. The Owls have had mixed results with a not-so-tough schedule. Besides Hawaii, none of the Owls' opponents are ranked.

Texas-El Paso (4-4, 0-0)

Coach: Revis Ward-Daggert, ninth year
2000 WAC record: 7-9
Players to watch: Jennifer Abbruzzese, Jacqui Nosan, Sarah Davis, Nicki Mosher, Krista Gronert
Outlook: UTEP was the preseason favorite to win the East Division but probably won't challenge teams in the West too often. Davis earned first-team all-conference honors as a defensive specialist last year. Nosan was an all-conference performer and leads the team in blocking. Abbruzzese, who had a strong freshman campaign, leads the team in hitting now with 3.45 kills.

Louisiana Tech (5-6, 0-0)

Coach: Heather Mazeitis, first year
2000 WAC record: N/A, 0-16 Sun Belt
Players to watch: Lia Mora, Brianna Sibley, Michelle Twitty, Cristine Sant'Anna, Elisa Sanchez
Outlook: Tech has won four straight, its longest win streak since 1996. But the cellar dwellers in the Sun Belt Conference probably won't move up too much in the WAC. Sant'Anna leads the team in hitting with 3.55 kills per game. The Lady Techsters are efficient hitters with Sant'Anna, Twitty and Sanchez ranked in the conference in hitting percentage.

Southern Methodist (4-5, 0-0)

Coach: Lisa Seifert, sixth year
2000 WAC record: 4-12
Players to watch: Tara Hatfield, Janna Newsom, Kristen Peterson, Jackie Erazmus, Leslie Lasiter
Outlook: The Mustangs graduated three senior starters but have three seniors in the lineup. Hatfield anchors the offense with 11.45 assists per game. She ranked nationally in the final NCAA stats last year. Lasiter was a WAC player of the week nominee, hitting .364 in two matches.
SMU plays Nevada tonight in its WAC opener.

Tulsa University (3-4, 0-1)

Coach: Matt Sonnichsen, fourth year
2000 WAC record: 4-12
Players to watch: Ashley Frogge, Kara Hidinger, Tammy Leuer, Vanessa Thon
Outlook: With four returning starters, Tulsa could repeat last year's 20-13 record, but don't let the 20 wins deceive you. Those victories came mostly against weaker opponents and the Golden Hurricane mustered only four wins in conference play last year. Tulsa is young with four freshmen in the lineup, but it leads the WAC in digs with 17.52 a game.

UH Athletics
Ka Leo O Hawaii

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