Sophomore setter Kanoe Kamana'o's steady improvement is one of the many reasons the Rainbow Wahine are undefeated.

Wahine will have
their hands full
in WAC

Hawaii enters the league
season at 10-0 with a 78-match
WAC winning streak in tow

The Streak.

No one wants to talk about it.

No one wants to bachi it.

It's like mentioning someone is tossing a no-hitter.

Or that someone has a consecutive free-throw run going.

No. No.

And when it comes to the Hawaii women's volleyball team, make that 78 straight nos.


The Streak dates back to 1998, when No. 5 Brigham Young handed No. 10 Hawaii its first ever defeat in 2-plus seasons of Western Athletic Conference play. The loss to the Cougars not only snapped a 34-match WAC winning skein but it also ended the Rainbow Wahine's conference streak of 53, a run dating back to a Big West defeat to UC Santa Barbara on Nov. 10, 1994.

In the revolving door known as the WAC, Wahine volleyball has been the consistent and constant. Hawaii is 112-1 in regular-season WAC matches.

After losing matches to UH last season, the other conference coaches were smacking their lips, thinking that this could be the year someone else could be league champion.

Considering how well Hawaii has played -- after losing three All-Americans and seven seniors -- those dreams of dethroning the Wahine may be what gets smacked.

"But it's always different when you go on the road, especially for the first time in a season," Hawaii coach Dave Shoji said. "We have a bunch of new people who have either never been on the road or haven't seen significant playing time on the road.

"We've been pretty comfortable at home, have had 10 good matches. We're obviously much more ready now than we were at the start of the season. Still, you never know what to expect."

Shoji's been saying that all season with his young team exceeding preseason expectations. The Wahine have knocked off all comers with four of their 10 victories coming against ranked teams.

Although the coaches voted UH to win its ninth WAC title, three other teams received first-place votes in Fresno State, Rice and Nevada. Only 16 points separated No. 1 Hawaii (74) and Nos. 4 Nevada and SMU (tied with 58).

While Hawaii has raised eyebrows around the league and the country, so have several other WAC teams. Rice, under new coach Genny Volpe, had a chance to knock off current No. 1 Minnesota, leading in Game 4, but lost in five.

Boise State is another surprise team at 13-2. The Broncos have quality wins over mid-major teams; their losses have been to Portland and No. 2 Washington.

"I don't think the (WAC) coaches thought we'd be 10-0, we didn't," Shoji said. "We certainly got their attention. But I still think they think they can beat us."

"It's more that we think we have a chance this year," Nevada coach Devin Scruggs said. "Hawaii doesn't rebuild, they reload, and they seem to have done it this year."

"UH loses people every year," Fresno State coach Lindy Vivas said, "but I've always said they'll just find a different way of winning."

And to keep The Streak going. But don't tell anyone.


Who's who

A look at the teams, based on the preseason coaches' poll:

1. Hawaii (10-0, 0-0 WAC)

Equally impressive as the Wahine's number of consecutive conference victories is the 182 straight against unranked teams. UH capped a perfect pre-conference schedule with two victories over Pepperdine.
The Wahine have done it with a balanced attack and with strong surges at the ends of games. Setter Kanoe Kamana'o, the national Freshman of the Year, has continued to get even better, and junior Susie Boogaard and sophomore Alicia Arnott pack a solid 1-2 punch from the outside.
Several newcomers have picked up where the 2003 team left off, most notably junior transfer Victoria Prince and freshman Tara Hittle.
This will be Hawaii first road trip of the year. After tomorrow's match at Fresno State, the Wahine travel to Nevada.

2. Fresno State (8-5, 1-1)

Senior outside hitter Kristen Fenton, the preseason WAC player of the year, had been mired in an early slump. She showed signs of returning to form by providing a match-high 30 kills and hitting .362 in the win at Tulsa.
The Bulldogs opened the WAC season by being swept at Rice. They return home to face the Wahine tomorrow in the only match scheduled for the Save Mart Center. Last year, the UH-Fresno match in the Save Mart set a school volleyball attendance mark of 4,708.
The Bulldogs have several Hawaii high school products on their roster, led by sophomore preseason all-WAC pick Tuli Peters (Kahuku), who has switched from the left side to the right. Others are junior hitter La'akea Campbell (Iolani) and freshman hitter Mounia Nihipali (Kamehameha).
The Bulldogs have been going with a young lineup that sometimes includes four freshmen, including setter Ilima Sam Fong and Christianna Reneau.

3. Rice (12-2, 2-0)

With their 2-0 start in WAC play -- sweeps of Nevada and Fresno State -- the Owls are off to their best league start since going 3-0 in 1996. Their 12-2 overall record matches the 1989 start.
Rice's losses have both come in five, at LSU and at No. 1 Minnesota. Last night, the Owls avenged the loss to LSU by sweeping the Tigers, 30-13, 30-19, 30-13.
Against Nevada last week, the Owls trailed 29-23 in Game 3 but went on to win 32-30.
Junior setter Kristina Hoban had her first-career triple double with 10 kills, 35 assists and 12 digs against Fresno State.
Former Rice assistant Genny Volpe returned to the Houston school after three seasons as an assistant at Texas A&M.

4t. Nevada (7-5, 1-1)

The Wolf Pack split their matches on the road last week, with a 3-2 win at Tulsa and a 3-0 loss at Rice.
All-WAC junior middle Salaia Salave'a averaged 5.25 kills a game and a .305 hitting percentage in the two matches. She posted double-doubles in both matches with 28 kills (career high) and 10 digs at Tulsa and 14 kills and 11 digs at Rice.
The Pack's losses have all come on the road, to Saint Mary's, No. 6 Stanford, No. 23 San Diego, Oregon State and Rice. The loss to the Cardinal was in five.
Scruggs is in her eighth season (126-85).

4t. SMU (7-5, 1-1)

The Mustangs split their home WAC opener last week, sweeping UTEP but falling to Boise State in four. SMU began the year with a loss to Texas then won four before falling to Cal State Northridge.
The other losses have come to Miami and LSU.
Last night, SMU swept Stephen F. Austin behind Jacky Niederstadt's 14 kills and 22 digs.
Junior setter Jessica Mihm is second to UH's Kamana'o in the WAC in assists per game, averaging 13.67 apg. Mihm recorded a season-high 80 assists in the five-game loss to Cal State Northridge.
Senior hitter Beth Karasek is sixth in kills per game (4.44 kpg).
Lisa Seifert, the only coach SMU has known, is in her ninth season (126-132).

6. San Jose State (9-4, 0-0)

Like their travel partner Hawaii, the Spartans will also play their first WAC matches this week, traveling to Nevada and Fresno State.
Three of San Jose State's losses have come on the road -- at Cal State Fullerton, Saint Mary's and Sacramento State. Last Friday, the Spartans fell to No. 17 Santa Clara in four.
Sophomore libero Jessie Shull is second in the league in digs, averaging 5.15 dpg. Senior hitter Carrie Nash has been named to two all-tournament teams and was the MVP of the UNLV Classic.
Craig Choate is in his 12th season (207-153).

7. Boise State (13-2, 2-0)

The Broncos have won four straight and are coming off road wins at Louisiana Tech and SMU. Their win over the Mustangs last Saturday was their first against SMU.
It's already a banner year for BSU, which has never won two WAC matches in a season (0-13 in 2002, 1-12 in 2001 and 2003). The 13-2 record marks the program's first year with double-digits in the overall win column since 1998.
Sophomore middle Cameron Flunder leads the Broncos, hitting .342 and averaging 3.92 kills per game. Senior Heather Malashak leads the WAC in blocks (1.75 bpg).

8. Louisiana Tech (5-9, 1-1)

The Lady Techsters split last week's WAC matches, falling to Boise but coming back to sweep UTEP. It was the fourth straight win over the Miners, and it snapped a six-match losing skid.
Last night, Tech swept Lamar for its second win in a row, getting 12 kills from senior hitter Natalie Shipp and 11 from sophomore hitter Ambra Hayes. Seven of the Lady Techsters' losses have been on the road.
Heather Mazeitis is in her fourth season (48-60).

9. Tulsa (11-3, 0-2)

By all accounts, the Golden Hurricane's WAC record is not a true indication of how good the team really is. Tulsa's loss to Nevada was in five, the loss to Fresno in four.
Tulsa's only other defeat was in five to Baylor. The Hurricane then went on to win its next six before opening WAC play.
Junior middle Sam Rutherford leads the WAC in hitting percentage (.364). Brazilian imports lead in two other categories: sophomore Joyce DeSilva in kills (5.06 kpg) and freshman Kassiana Umau in aces (0.80 apg).

10. UTEP Miners (6-5, 0-2)

The struggling Miners are two wins away from tying last season's win total of eight. They stunned host New Mexico State last night behind Heather Brisnahan's 15 kills, snapping the Aggies' 10-match winning streak.
Freshman libero Brittany Stowers leads the WAC in digs (6.79 dpg).
Scott Swanson is in his third season (25-41).


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