Star-Bulletin Sports

Wednesday, November 14, 2001


Hawaii Pacific middle blocker Andrea Wean, above, Nia
Tuitele and Roberta Robert have postseason experience.

HPU ready to repeat with
different group

By Brandon Lee

No. 16 Hawaii Pacific's quest for a third national volleyball title in four years officially begins tomorrow.

After suffering their first loss since being dumped in the first round of 1999's NCAA Division II tournament -- and then struggling down the stretch just to qualify for the postseason -- the defending national champion Sea Warriors (18-4) still ended the regular season with a third consecutive Pacific West Conference championship and their fourth straight trip to the Pacific Regional.

HPU is the fourth seed and will meet fifth-seeded and former conference foe Seattle Pacific (20-7) in the six-team regional at 5:30 p.m. HST tomorrow at Coussoulis Arena on the campus of Cal State San Bernardino. The Sea Warriors are 4-0 all-time against the Falcons, and beat them in straight games last year in the PacWest's title match.

"We feel kinda confident (about playing Seattle Pacific)," HPU coach Tita Ahuna said. "(But) we also have a different team than last year. They have some outstanding players and they're a well-coached team, so it should be a good match."

The Sea Warriors do have three key holdovers from last year's team: setter Nia Tuitele, middle blocker Andrea Wean and outside hitter Roberta Robert. And HPU will be relying heavily on the trio of senior first-team conference all-stars to carry the less-experienced players through the anxiety and higher level of competition that comes with postseason play.

Should the Sea Warriors get by Seattle Pacific, they will meet top seed and host Cal State San Bernardino (28-2) -- who received a bye from first-round action -- on Friday at 5:30 p.m. HST. HPU has won its only two meetings ever with San Bernardino, but was pushed to five games by the Coyotes before winning in last year's Pacific Regional championship match.

Unlike the Sea Warriors, San Bernardino brought the majority of its players back for this year, including the nation's current leaders in kills (Kim Ford) and kill percentage (Kim Morohunfola).

"(The Coyotes) gave us all we could handle last year," Ahuna said.

The teams on the other side of the regional draw are No. 2-seed University of California San Diego (22-6), No. 3 Western Washington (23-4) and No. 6 Cal State Los Angeles (19-10). The championship match is set for Saturday at 5 p.m. HST, with a berth in the Elite Eight tournament (Nov. 29-Dec. 1) on the line.

Regardless of the long road still ahead in possibly capturing her third national title in her HPU career, Tuitele -- the two-time All-American and PacWest Player of the Year, is undaunted.

"Whoever we play, it doesn't matter," she said. "We have a lot of heart and team chemistry, and we're just hungry to play. If we (end up playing) San Bernardino -- bring it on."

HPU drops a spot: Hawaii Pacific fell from 15th to 16th in the latest AVCA Top 25 coaches poll yesterday, being passed up by 22-8 Augustana, S.D.

West Texas A&M stayed at the top with 26 first place votes, followed by Truman, which received eight.

Cal State San Berardino, who could play the Sea Warriors on Friday, was awarded a first place vote and settled into the fifth spot. Seattle Pacific, who plays HPU tomorrow, did not make the Top 25 but was listed on two ballots.


Through Nov. 13
First place votes in parentheses

Rank/School Pts W-L LW

1. West Texas A&M (26) 865 30-2 1

2. Truman (8) 841 35-1 2

3. North Alabama 765 31-3 3

4. North Dakota St. 758 29-3 4

5. CS-San Bernardino (1) 744 28-2 5

6. Barry 694 27-2 6

7. Univ. of Tampa 681 26-3 7

8. Metro St. 643 28-4 9

9. Western St. (Colo.) 567 26-4 10

10. South Dakota St. 523 24-5 8

11. Regis 490 24-8 12

12. Central Missouri St. 433 24-6 13

13. Nebraska-Kearney 428 26-5 11

14. Augustana, S.D. 411 22-8 15

15. Northern Kentucky 407 27-4 14

16. Hawaii Pacific 371 18-4 15

17. UC-San Diego 353 22-6 18

18. Grand Valley St. 248 26-4 17

19. North Florida 241 25-7 21

20. Alabama-Huntsville 190 28-8 22

21. Western Washington 182 23-4 23

22. CS-Bakersfield 144 19-9 20

23. Rockhurst 102 34-6 19

24. CS-Los Angeles 77 19-10 NR

25. Findlay 33 28-6 24

25. Northwood (Mich.) 33 24-8 NR

Others receiving points and listed on two or more ballots: St. Edward's 29, Mercy 21, Armstrong Atlantic St. 17, Northern Michigan 15, Montevallo 14, Cameron 11, Michigan Tech 6, Minnesota St.-Mankato 6, Ferris St. 3, Northern Colorado 3, Seattle Pacific 2.

Hawaii Pacific
U.H. Hilo

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