Hawaii's Kim Willoughby hit past the block of San Jose State's Allison Dillon last night at the Stan Sheriff Center.

Wahine seniors
say aloha

UH beats SJSU in its
final regular-season
home match

Are there any flowers left on Oahu?

Are there any tears left in Manoa?

The answer to both? Probably not.

A sold-out crowd of 10,300 at the Stan Sheriff Center said aloha to Hawaii's seven seniors in the only way island volleyball fans know how: with deafening cheers and leis.

Plenty of leis. Enough perhaps to stretch to Slovenia or Sweden or to the four states where six of the Rainbow Wahine call home.

Nohea Tano is the lone player from Hawaii, but, given last night's reception, the others have obviously become favored hanai daughters. The seven, the largest senior class since the 1983 NCAA title team, repaid the first sellout crowd in just over a year with a 78th consecutive Western Athletic Conference victory.

Hawaii (27-1, 13-0 WAC) needed 91 minutes to sweep San Jose State 30-25, 30-24, 30-27. The post-match celebration lasted twice as long, with the entire team buried under a flower shop full of leis.

"It was better than amazing," said Lily Kahumoku's mother, Gayle. "This is really special. This is something you have to experience firsthand.

"When I was walking in, I saw fans with T-shirts that said 'Lily' on the back. It was awesome. You don't see that anywhere else."

It was the 12th sellout for women's volleyball in the arena, the first since a loss to Stanford on Nov. 10, 2002. It was the second against San Jose State -- the Spartans (8-17, 6-7) were the first opponents when the arena opened on Oct. 21, 1994.

"I told my team to enjoy the moment, that they were never going to play in front of 10,000 people again," said San Jose State coach Craig Choate. "I thought we played great, although we just don't have all the weapons they have. It's a little like an aircraft carrier vs. a tugboat."

Surprisingly, it was the first sellout for a "Senior Night." No surprise that it happened for this team, which has compiled a four-year record of 121-11 (29-2 in 1999, Kahumoku's freshman year) with two trips to the final four and two third-place finishes.

The seniors didn't disappoint the fans and the crowd was not disappointed by the festivities. After the match, each senior ran back onto the court through a tunnel created by their teammates, joining family members.

Kahumoku, Karin Lundqvist, Nohea Tano, Melissa Villaroman, Maja Gustin, Lauren Duggins and Kim Willoughby either drop-kicked or tossed specially decorated volleyballs into the stands. Kahumoku donned a grass skirt over her shorts.

Nohea Tano emerged from a tunnel made by her teammates during last night's senior night festivities at the Stan Sheriff Center.

The Rainbow Wahine weren't particularly sharp, perhaps trying hard to compensate for the Cat in the Hat-esque striped knee-high socks. But Hawaii was good enough when it counted, at the end of all three games.

Freshman setter Kanoe Kamana'o did a nice job of involving all her senior hitters. After Game 2, Willoughby, Kahumoku, Duggins and Gustin all had at least 11 attempts, while Tano managed eight.

Lundqvist got into the act midway through Game 3. The Wahine trailed against the Spartans for most of the game, with Lundqvist putting down her first kill to tie it at 13.

It stayed close the rest of the way, with Willoughby finally putting the Wahine on top with a five-point serving run. She blasted two of her four aces to push Hawaii to a 19-18 lead.

San Jose State kept battling back, with the Spartans' lone senior, Kimberly Noble, putting down her 15th kill to close to 24-22. The Spartans kept within a point, the last at 28-27, before Tano nailed her eighth kill and Duggins her ninth to end it.

"I tried to give everybody the ball tonight," said Kamana'o. "It was a lot of fun, a lot of smiles and a lot of happy tears."

As they walked around the arena to sign autographs and receive leis, the seniors were at a loss to explain their feelings.

"It's hard to explain," said Willoughby after a match-high 21 kills.

"I could have played better, but for all the hype, it was even more amazing," said Kahumoku, who had 10 kills. "It was a beautiful experience."

Tano witnessed a number of "Senior Nights" while growing up.

"I'm so thankful to be a part of this," said Tano. "It was better than I expected, seeing how dedicated the fans are."

"It was nice a nice night," said Hawaii coach Dave Shoji. "San Jose State played really well, didn't look like the sixth-place team in the WAC. I give them credit, they took us out of our offense a lot tonight.

"But we knew there would be a lot of emotion tonight. I was just hoping to funnel out onto the court. We were challenged. We've been thinking about this night for so long that it was hard to play well in this match."

Kim Willoughby and Lily Kahumoku were adorned with flowers after last night's match.

There was enough aloha to share with the Spartan players. Noble particularly enjoyed the night.

"I love it. It's really exciting," she said. "It's really overwhelming. What more could you ask for? You're never going to have a chance to play in front of 10,000 people."

Notes: Hawaii will take a 26-match winning streak to next week's WAC tournament at Reno, Nev. The top-seeded Wahine will play eighth-seeded Tulsa (11-15, 2-11) in Thursday's first round. The Golden Hurricane won the league tiebreaker over UTEP; based on games won in conference play, Tulsa had a 14-12 edge over the Miners. The other matches will be SMU-Louisiana Tech, Fresno State-San Jose State and Rice-Nevada. ... Tickets for the Dec. 12-13 NCAA Regional at the Stan Sheriff Center, one of four predetermined sites, go on sale tomorrow at the arena box office. There is no guarantee Hawaii will be at home for the regional, but that is the probable scenario when pairings are announced on Nov. 30.

Hawaii def. San Jose State

30-25, 30-24, 30-27

Spartans (8-17, 6-7 WAC)

g k e att pct. bs ba d
Dillon 3 1 0 4 .250 0 0 4
Nash 3 6 2 29 .138 0 2 5
Dahlstedt 3 9 0 16 .562 0 0 7
Rudd 3 5 2 15 .200 0 2 0
Wlodarczyk 2 1 3 8 -.250 0 0 0
Noble 3 15 6 44 .205 0 0 8
Lewis 3 0 0 0 .000 0 0 3
Shull 3 0 0 0 .000 0 0 8
Herald 3 0 0 0 .000 0 0 2
Thompson 2 2 2 8 .000 1 0 0
Totals 3 39 15 124 .194 1 4 37

Wahine (27-1, 13-0 WAC)

g k e att pct. bs ba d
Willoughby 3 21 4 33 .515 0 0 6
Tano 3 8 2 16 .375 0 1 8
Kahumoku 3 10 6 29 .138 0 3 6
Kamana'o 3 2 0 3 .667 1 2 8
Gustin 2 6 3 11 .273 0 0 4
Duggins 3 9 1 17 .471 0 5 9
Lundqvist 1 1 1 5 .000 0 1 2
Watanabe 3 0 0 0 .000 0 0 4
Villaroman 3 0 0 0 .000 0 0 15
Totals 3 57 17 114 .351 1 12 62

Key -- g: games; k: kills; e: hitting errors; att: attempts; pct.: hitting percentage; bs: block solos; ba: block assists; d: digs.
Aces -- Spartans (9): Lewis 4, Dillon, Nash, Dahlstedt, Noble, Herald. Hawaii (9): Willoughby 4, Kamana'o 2, Kahumoku, Gustin, Watanabe. Assists -- Spartans (38): Dillon 35, Dahlstedt 2, Nash. Hawaii (56): Kamana'o 47, Tano 3, Willoughby 2, Villaroman 2, Kahumoku, Watanabe.
T -- 1:31. Officials -- Eric Asami, Denice Hanson. A -- 9511.


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