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[ WAHINE VOLLEYBALL ]
Rivals lining up
Waikiki Beach Marriott InvitationalWhere: Stan Sheriff Center
Schedule: Tomorrow, No. 14 Cal (4-2) at No. 7 Hawaii (6-0), 7 p.m.; Saturday, UC Irvine (7-0) at Hawaii, 7 p.m.; Sunday, Cal vs. UC Irvine, 3 p.m.
Radio: UH matches, live, KKEA 1420-AM.
TV: UH matches live, KFVE (Ch. 5).
Tickets: $3-$6 tomorrow and Saturday. No charge Sunday.
Coaches: Hawaii's Dave Shoji, 30th season (846-149-1). Cal's Rich Feller, sixth season (85-69 at Cal, 384-236 overall). UCI's Charlie Brande, fifth season (63-64).
Series: Hawaii leads Cal 7-0 and UCI 24-0. Cal leads UCI 8-3.
On the sidelines tomorrow for the Golden Bears (4-2) will be Rich Feller, the former coach at ex-Western Athletic Conference opponent Colorado State. On Saturday, former Rainbow Wahine assistant Charlie Brande (1980-81) will be coaching the Anteaters (7-0).
Feller is 0-5 against Shoji, four of those losses coming when the Wahine played Feller's Rams. In 1996, CSU nearly derailed final-four-bound Hawaii in Fort Collins, with the Wahine having to rally for a 15-11, 14-16, 17-19, 15-10, 15-10 victory.
Hawaii's win over Cal at Berkeley in 1999 not only opened the season for both teams but was also Feller's debut with the Golden Bears. He's fared much better this season as Cal opened with four straight wins before losing twice last weekend in straight games to current No. 10 UC Santa Barbara and No. 12 Texas A&M in the Golden Bear Invitational.
"We're looking at the Hawaii trip as a huge challenge," said Feller, whose team slipped from No. 8 to 14th in this week's poll. "Hawaii has a great program, and this year, with all the young players, is doing a great job.
"This will be our first matches as the underdog and that might be a good thing for our team. We've been a little dinged up lately with some injuries and illnesses to starters, so we weren't quite as consistent last weekend as the first week."
Cal was held to a .191 hitting percentage against Texas A&M and hit just .120 against UCSB. In losing to the Gauchos, the Golden Bears snapped winning streaks of 18 straight tournament matches and six consecutive tournament titles.
Still, expect Cal to bounce back. The Golden Bears are an experienced team, with six of seven starters returning from the squad that saw its NCAA Tournament run ended by Georgia Tech in the regional semifinal at the Stan Sheriff Center last December.
The only player missing is two-time All-American Mia Jerkov, who had an eligibility problem after competing for her native Croatia with professional players from Russia.
Picking up the offensive slack have been senior Gabrielle Abernathy, junior Alicia Powers and freshman Angie Pressey.
Pressey, a 5-foot-8 hitter, leads the team with 3.91 kpg. She has played in just 11 of the 18 games due to a muscle strain in her lower left leg.
Abernathy, a 5-11 hitter, is averaging 3.44 kpg. With 927 career kills, she is 40 kills shy of breaking into Cal's all-time top-10 career-kill list.
The 6-2 Powers (3.06 kpg) has been a force in the middle along with 6-1 senior middle Camille Leffall (1.19 bpg).
Setter Samantha Carter, a 6-foot sophomore, is back running the offense (13.50 apg). As a freshman, Carter set a school record with 1,555 assists. Sophomore libero Jillian Davis leads Cal with 96 digs this season (5.33 dpg).
"We look forward to the intense competition and the great crowds," Feller said. "I know what Dave (Shoji) and his crew are capable of. I'm not surprised that Hawaii is still unbeaten."
The Wahine coaching staff is pleasantly surprised to be one of nine unbeaten teams in this week's poll.
"We didn't know what to expect," said assistant coach Kari Anderson Ambrozich. "Probably the most surprising thing about this team is how they thrive in tight situations. Usually experience gets you through that, but these guys don't have that experience. What they have is guts and they know how to fight."
The Wahine are already 3-0 in matches that have gone five games. All the matches the Golden Bears have played this season have gone three, while the Anteaters have won six 3-0 matches and held off Utah in five on Sept. 6.
"It doesn't get any easier for us this week," Shoji said. "They're both solid ballclubs and both pose some problems.
"We can't look past anyone. There are no automatic (wins) this year. We have to work hard and compete every time out."
Of concern to Hawaii is the UCI offense, led by 5-11 senior All-American Kelly Wing (5.55 kpg) and 6-3 senior middle Sami Cash (3.25 kpg).
Cash came into the week as the nation's leader in hitting percentage at .615 (65-9-91).
Another key player is 6-1 junior middle Amanda Vasquez (a Moanalua alumna), the team leader in blocks (1.10 bpg).
Last night, the Anteaters opened Big West play with a 30-20, 30-21, 30-20 win over Cal State Fullerton, hitting .529 as a team. Wing put down 21 kills, hitting .606, Cash added 10 kills and Vasquez six.
With the win, UCI has tied the school record for best start, set by the 1981 team.
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