Wahine open NCAAs
hosting Hilltoppers

No. 2 Hawaii is surprised
at being seeded sixth

NCAA tournament schedule

By Grace Wen

Nobody said the road to the Big Easy would be easy, but some teams have it better than others.

No. 2 Hawaii is seeded sixth in the NCAA tournament and plays Western Kentucky (33-4), the winner of the Sun Belt Conference, on Thursday at the Stan Sheriff Center. Washington and Colorado State will likely play at 5 p.m. with the Rainbow Wahine's match set to start 30 minutes after. The winners of those matches play Friday at 7 p.m.

Being seeded sixth means that Hawaii is unlikely to host a regional after playing its first two games at home.

In 28 years of coaching, you learn not to expect anything when it comes to the postseason tournament. Hawaii coach Dave Shoji looked impassive yesterday as the second-ranked Rainbow Wahine (30-1) learned their postseason fate. About 30 people gathered at the Eastside Grill (an eatery near the UH campus) to watch the short selection show on television.

But staying stoical was not effortless for Shoji. A copy of the brackets was made available to him and associate coach Charlie Wade before the show. Wade tried to be expressionless but had a smoldering look on his face as he shifted uncomfortably in his seat.

NCAA volleyball

What: First and second rounds
Who: No. 6 Hawaii (30-1) vs. Western Kentucky (33-4); Washington (19-10) vs. Colorado State (22-9)
When: Dec. 5-6, times TBA
Where: Stan Sheriff Center

"I've been in this long enough to know anything can happen. There's no rhyme or reason that we can see for certain things," Shoji said. "Obviously the committee spent a lot of time going over all the scenarios.

"I wasn't surprised that we didn't get a regional. I thought we were on the bubble, but to drop to sixth was surprising to me. I'm very surprised that Northern Iowa got in the top four. ... I guess that we were unlucky in that Northern Iowa won that match (against Florida on Saturday). If they don't win that match, we sneak in at No. 4, that's what I think."

Hawaii is the only team with one loss that isn't a top-four seed. Top-ranked USC (25-1) is in the West region and the No. 1 seed overall. No. 4 Stanford (27-4) is the second seed and in the Pacific region. Nebraska (27-1) is seeded third in the tournament and first in the Central regional. Eighth-ranked Northern Iowa (32-2) is the No. 4 seed and Florida is the No. 5 seed. The Panthers' 3-2 win over Florida likely vaulted them ahead of the Gators (30-2).

The Cardinal's seed also surprised Shoji since Stanford dropped two matches (Arizona and Washington State) that should not have been deemed quality losses by the selection committee. But the defending national champions also knocked off two top-ranked teams (USC and Hawaii) in the same week.

Last season, in an effort to minimize travel and risk, the NCAA sent many seeded teams, which usually host the early rounds, on the road. Hawaii was sent to Washington State. This year, Hawaii will be home for the first and second rounds, but will likely travel for the regional. If all the teams advance according to seed, the Rainbow Wahine would probably go to Nebraska.

The players' reactions were mixed. Setter Jennifer Carey seemed thrilled not to have to travel for the early rounds.

"It's tough on all sides of the bracket," Carey said. "They say that Nebraska has the second-best attendance after us. They're a fun place to play at so I'll enjoy it. Bring it on, the second-best attendance with 3,000 people.

"I thought we would be a top-four seed. I don't think that loss to Stanford was a bad loss. They had more bad losses than we did. I'm surprised Florida and Northern Iowa got a higher seed than us, but it's not in our hands."

Outside hitter Kim Willoughby, a native of Napoleonville, La., thinks playing harder teams in the early rounds will better season the Wahine for the tough matches that are sure to follow in the latter rounds.

"I just want to play," Willoughby said. "It's not something that's going to make or break our team. We play great at home. We play great on the road.

"We deserved better, but we have to go with it because we can't control it. The best thing about playing the tougher teams is that we have the advantage because we're playing better teams. I don't know if anybody wants the easier route."

Notes: North Carolina (11th) and Wisconsin (14th) are the other seeded teams in the Central region. ... The Rainbow Wahine have participated in every NCAA tournament except one (1992). Only Penn State, Pacific, UC Santa Barbara and Stanford have earned bids to all 22 tournaments. ... The Pac-10 and Big Ten each received eight tournament berths. The Big 12 had five teams selected for the tourney, while the Big West and the Atlantic Coast conferences have four teams in the field. Hawaii, Nevada and Fresno State are the representatives from the Western Athletic Conference. ... In the history of the tournament, nine schools have been crowned champion, all of which are in this year's bracket. ... The top four seeds are not guaranteed to host a regional. The sites of the regional will be decided after first and second round matches have been played. ... Freshman Susie Boogaard has a moderate right ankle sprain and is questionable for this week.

Season ticket holders can pick up tickets for the first and second rounds at noon today. General public tickets go on sale tomorrow. If seats remain, individual match tickets will be sold Dec. 5. Ticket prices for the first- and second-round packages are $26 for the lower level. Upper-level prices are $20 for adults, $16 for senior citizens and $10 for students.


NCAA tournament schedule

Following is a list of first-round matches, which will be held Dec. 5, 6 or 7. Seeded teams are host schools. Site winners meet in second round the following day. Regionals will be held Dec. 12-13, 13-14 or 14-15, sites announced after second round. Regional winners advance to final four in New Orleans, Dec. 19-21.


At Los Angeles

No. 1 Southern California (25-1)vs. San Diego (25-7)

Utah (25-8) vs. Texas A&M (20-9)

At South Bend, Ind.

No. 16 Notre Dame (23-7) vs. College of Charleston (29-5)

Michigan State (19-11) vs. George Mason (22-7)

At Malibu, Calif.

No. 9 Pepperdine (23-6) vs. Cal Poly (15-12)

UCLA (19-13) vs. Long Beach State (28-3)

At Santa Barbara, Calif.

No. 8 UC Santa Barbara (28-2) vs. Fresno State (23-6)

Santa Clara (24-6) vs. California (19-11)


At Gainesville, Fla.

No. 5 Florida (30-2) vs. Central Florida (22-12)

Florida State (21-12) vs. South Florida (29-6)

At University Park, Pa.

No. 13 Penn State (24-7) vs. Pennsylvania (22-4)

Temple (26-6) vs. Manhattan (30-2)

At Pullman, Wash.

No. 12 Washington State (21-7) vs. Oral Roberts (22-10)

Michigan (16-14) vs. Kansas State (20-8)

At Cedar Falls, Iowa

No. 4 Northern Iowa vs. Wisconsin-Milwaukee (20-13)

Missouri (25-7) vs. Northwestern (17-15)


At Lincoln, Neb.

No. 3 Nebraska (27-1) vs. Tennessee-Martin (24-5)

Arizona State (14-11) vs. Cincinnati (23-8)

At Madison, Wis.

No. 14 Wisconsin (23-8) vs. Alabama A&M (24-7)

Miami (Fla.) (25-5) vs. Duke (24-9)

At Chapel Hill, N.C.

No. 11 North Carolina (30-3) vs. Winthrop (28-10)

American (26-7) vs. South Carolina (21-6)

At Honolulu

No. 6 Hawaii (30-1) vs. Western Kentucky (33-4)

Washington (19-10) vs. Colorado State (22-9)


At Minneapolis

No. 7 Minnesota (30-5) vs. New Hampshire (23-10)

Florida A&M (23-6) vs. Georgia Tech (32-5)

At Tucson, Ariz.

No. 10 Arizona (17-11) vs. Texas-Arlington (26-6)

Texas (22-8) vs. Indiana (20-12)

At Columbus, Ohio

No. 15 Ohio State (19-10) vs. Robert Morris (27-11)

Ball State (25-7) vs. Louisville (27-5)

At Stanford, Calif.

No. 2 Stanford (27-4) vs. Sacramento State (24-10)

Pacific (18-12) vs. Nevada (22-9)

UH Athletics

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