Collins coming home

The former UH star
brings her UNLV team
to play No. 2 Hawaii

It took watching just one match for Deitre Collins to become hooked on Hawaii volleyball.

Women's volleyball

Tomorrow: UNLV vs. No. 25 Loyola Marymount
Friday: Hawaii vs. Loyola Marymount, 7 p.m.
Saturday: Hawaii vs. UNLV, 7 p.m.
Stan Sheriff Center
TV: UH matches live, KFVE
Radio: UH matches live, KKEA 1420-AM

It took watching just one tape of Collins for Rainbow Wahine coach Dave Shoji to become hooked on Collins.

The player and the mentor will reunite Saturday when Collins' UNLV team takes on Shoji's second-ranked UH. It is the fourth time that the former three-time All-American blocker is bringing her Rebels into the Stan Sheriff Center.

UNLV has yet to take a game off Hawaii, having been swept the three previous meetings, including a 15-0 blanking in Game 1 of the 2000 match. It doesn't matter to Collins.

"I always feel like I'm coming home," she said. "Hopefully, we'll play better than the other times we've been there. I think it's extra pressure on my players because of me, because they know their coach is respected over there.

"Why do we continue to schedule them? We need to play teams like Hawaii. And it's awesome for my team to get to go there, play in a great arena and a great atmosphere. They can measure themselves against the best."

In her prime, Collins was the best. She was the two-time Honda Award winner as the top female collegiate volleyball player in the country and won the Broderick Cup in 1983 as the best female athlete in college.

Until Long Beach State's Misty May won the Broderick Cup in 1999, Collins was the only volleyball player to earn the top honor. She led Hawaii to consecutive NCAA titles in 1982 and 1983 with the Rainbow Wahine going 104-5 in her last three years.

Shoji remembers when he first saw Collins on tape in 1979. He had to impose on then-basketball coach Larry Little to use the video equipment.

"We were in our old offices near the ROTC buildings and we didn't have a TV to watch the tape," Shoji said. "I popped the tape in and Larry and I watched it. We couldn't believe how dynamic she was in this film.

"I don't know how highly recruited she was. Obviously there were people who recognized she could become a good player. She was pretty raw and unpolished, and she was a little removed from the main clubs in Orange County and Los Angeles."

Collins grew up just north of Los Angeles in Lancaster, where she was a four-sport athlete at Lancaster High School. She commuted to play for a club in Los Angeles, coached by Chuck Erbe, who was also the coach at Southern California.

Collins said she was told that if she left the area, she would never play for the national team. Her choices were USC, UCLA and UC Santa Barbara.

"I didn't make a visit to Hawaii, although Dave sent me some pictures of the campus," Collins said. "I saw them play at the NIVT (at UCLA in 1979). I saw one match and I made the decision.

"I still have the pictures that Dave sent me. He didn't send any of Klum Gym. But at the time everyone was playing in a gym like Klum. It was not the easy choice but it was the best thing that ever happened in my life."

Collins said she didn't realize that Hawaii had won the national championship (1979 AIAW title) until after committing to the program. What attracted her was that she knew Hawaii was graduating most of its players and Shoji had said she'd have a chance to play right away.

"If I had gone for the name recognition, I would have gone to UCLA or USC or Stanford," said Collins. "Hawaii was not the easy choice. But Dave had graduated everybody and I was guaranteed to play right way."

She made an impact from the beginning, helping Hawaii rebuild after the loss of eight seniors. Hawaii was ranked No. 1 for most of her last three seasons.

In her final match, a sweep of UCLA in the 1983 NCAA final, she had 16 kills and eight blocks. Collins still ranks among the Top 10 in seven UH career categories, including No. 2 in block solos (209).

"She was the most dominating player of her time," Shoji said. "Nobody played as fast as she did, had as much offense as she did. She is one of the all-time greats to ever be in the program.

"She raised her level and developed as a player here, then went on to the Olympic team. We're real proud that we had something to do with that. She made an impact on our program and an impact nationally. She was the best player in the country for a couple of years."

Collins went on to become the starting middle blocker for the 1988 U.S. Olympic team and was an alternate for the 1992 team. She also played professionally in Italy and France, before beginning her coaching career.

She's been at UNLV since 1996, where she resurrected a program that was dormant for 11 years. The Rebels are 7-3, and had won six in a row before losing to Boise State last Saturday.

It's been nearly 20 years since Collins played for Hawaii. She said it hardly seems possible.

"Sometimes it feels like I played only a few years ago," she said. "At least until I get in the gym and my knees start hurting.

"And it's so good to come back home. People are still so good to me, even 20 years later. The respect that I still receive is unbelievable."


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