Hawaii's Nohea Tano went up for a block last Sunday in the WAC championship game. The Wahine beat San Jose State to clinch a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

Hawaii ready to fly

It's like buying a lottery ticket and waiting for the right numbers to come up.

The Hawaii Rainbow Wahine volleyball team appears to have all the numbers: 32 (wins), 31 (straight victories) and seven (victories over Top 25 teams). Hawaii (32-1) has done everything needed this season to remain in the top four of the NCAA rankings.

But will it be enough to keep Hawaii home when the NCAA Tournament opens play this coming week? The only comment from a member of the selection committee was: "There are no guarantees."

Hawaii will learn its fate this afternoon when the pairings are broadcast on ESPNews at 3.

The Rainbow Wahine could host first- and second-round matches this week and -- if they win -- could remain here to play in the Stan Sheriff Center, one of the four pre-selected regional sites.

Or they may not. It certainly would be cheaper to fly one team (Hawaii) to the mainland rather than bring three others here this week. The NCAA already knows it will have to fly at least three teams to Honolulu in two weeks for the regional.

"I have no feeling whatsoever," said Hawaii coach Dave Shoji. "We'll go where they tell us to go and try not to get too worked up about if we need to go on the road."

It would be a quick turnaround for the Wahine, who arrived after a 10-day road trip to Reno, Nev., and Las Vegas yesterday afternoon. It would also be the third trip in less than a month: UH was at Nevada on Nov. 6, Fresno State on Nov. 9, at the WAC tournament in Reno on Nov. 21-23 and at the UNLV Thanksgiving Tournament last week.

"I have a feeling we're going to be back on the road," said Wahine senior co-captain Melissa Villaroman. "I hope not, but I think it will happen. We will have to prepare and get really focused. We need to be prepared for any team."

Hawaii has nearly run the table, with its only loss coming in the second match of the season back on Aug. 23 to No. 1 Southern California. The Wahine haven't lost since, but the Women of Troy haven't lost at all and will be the No. 1 seed when the field of 64 is announced today.

USC (29-0), Hawaii (32-1) and Florida (31-1) have remained 1-2-3 in the rankings since the beginning of the season, with Florida's only loss coming to USC in the season opener on Aug. 22. That corresponds nicely with three of the pre-selected regional sites: Long Beach State, Hawaii and Florida. The other regional site is Nebraska.

Sitting at No. 4 is Pepperdine (25-2). The Waves' losses came in September, to Arizona and Southern California.

The coaches' rankings don't mean much when it comes to the tournament pairings, however. The committee uses regional rankings, which are not released during the season.

The Wahine have been a victim of geography on numerous occasions and have played away from home several times despite a high ranking and seed. Last season, they hosted the first and second rounds but were shipped to Nebraska for the regional.

"I really don't have a feeling what will happen and that way I won't be disappointed if we have to get on a plane again," said Shoji.


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