Star-Bulletin Sports

Friday, November 16, 2001


Hawaii Pacific opens
regional with a win

Star-Bulletin staff

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. >> The Hawaii Pacific volleyball team opened its national championship defense with a win last night, thanks to a lead-worthy performance from a player usually relegated to a supporting role.

Sophomore newcomer Teisa Fotu had 13 kills on .300 hitting, tied her season-high with four aces and had 11 digs in helping the No. 16 Sea Warriors to a 26-30, 30-22, 30-22, 30-26 win over Seattle Pacific in the first round of the Pacific Regional at Coussoulis Arena on the Cal State San Bernardino campus.

"I was really nervous at the beginning," Fotu said. "This is the regionals and I'm the only underclassman on the starting six. But that motivates me to play the best I can because I don't want to let (the others) down."

Fourth-seeded HPU (19-4) moved on to the regional semifinals and will face top seed and host, No. 5 San Bernardino (28-2), which received a bye from first-round action, today at 5:30 p.m. Hawaii time. The Sea Warriors are 2-0 all-time against the Coyotes, but were forced to five very difficult games before beating San Bernardino in last year's regional final.

Seattle Pacific finished its season at 20-8. In the first regional semifinal tomorrow, third-seeded Western Washington (24-4) -- which beat Cal State Los Angeles to advance -- will face second-seeded UC San Diego (22-6).

Unlike Fotu, senior Pacific West Conference first-team all-stars Andrea Wean and Roberta Robert and two-time conference Player of the Year Nia Tuitele were expected to perform well. And did they ever.

Wean had a match-high 20 kills and five blocks, while Robert posted a double-double of 18 kills and 20 digs. Tuitele had match-highs of 53 assists and 22 digs.

Leah Wiiest had a team-high 17 kills for the Falcons in defeat.

"Teisa has just been playing outstanding lately," HPU coach Tita Ahuna said. "Roberta and Nia got us the momentum we needed from the second game, Andrea has always been consistent, and they showed us the leadership we needed to pull us through. It was a total team effort."

Despite the victory, HPU got off to a slow start that they likely cannot afford tonight. Seattle Pacific opened with eight unanswered points early in the first game. That was too much for the Sea Warriors to recover from despite six kills from Fotu.

HPU had a relatively easy time after that in sweeping the last three games as Robert and Wean began to heat up, but similar play could spell doom for the Sea Warriors against San Bernardino. The Coyotes return the majority of their players from last year and will have the home crowd behind them.

"Our offense needs to be top-notch (tonight)," Ahuna said. "San Bernardino is gonna be a much bigger and quicker team. But if we're able to clean up some of our errors, especially in passing, it should be a good match."

Hawaii Pacific
U.H. Hilo

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