SMU won’t miss

In their last year in the WAC,
the Mustangs seek their first
win over the Wahine

Southern Methodist is one of the four schools leaving the Western Athletic Conference after this season.

Mustang volleyball coach Lisa Seifert knows exactly what she would like as a parting gift: a victory over Hawaii in the teams' only regular-season match this year.


Who: No. 3 Hawaii (15-0, 5-0) at SMU (9-7, 3-3)

When: Today, 9 a.m.

Live on KKEA (1420-AM)

Series: Hawaii leads 9-0

If there was going to be a year that it could happen, this was supposed to be it. The Rainbow Wahine lost six seniors and much of their offense from the final-four team that finished 36-2.

But the young Hawaii team has had two words for its opponents: "Fooled ya." The No. 3 Wahine haven't lost a step in rolling to a 15-0 record, 5-0 in the WAC.

Hawaii goes for its 96th consecutive WAC victory today when taking on SMU at Moody Coliseum (9 a.m. Hawaii time). The Mustangs are 9-7 overall, 3-3 in the WAC following Thursday's loss to San Jose State.

"For us to beat Hawaii, we need to do everything well," said Seifert, the 2003 WAC Coach of the Year. "I feel like we've struggled because we really didn't have a spring. We dealt with injuries all spring and had to cancel our competitions. We are working diligently to peak at the right time."

It's been a disappointing season so far for the Mustangs, who won the Eastern Division last year with an 11-2 record, 23-7 overall. A couple of SMU's All-WAC performers from last season -- senior middle Jacky Niederstadt and junior hitter Kelly Larkan -- have not met Seifert's expectations this year.

The Mustangs' most consistent player has been senior hitter Beth Karasek, who has continued to build on her All-WAC Tournament outing from last November. Karasek had 15 digs in last week's 3-0 loss to Rice to become the school's all-time dig leader (1,240). She also had 10 kills against the Owls for her 10th double-double.

This is Seifert's ninth season at SMU. She's the only coach the program has known, starting with the inaugural season in 1996.

In her opinion, the WAC may be at its overall strongest.

"Rice is very good," Seifert said of the 17-2, 7-0 Owls. "The core group are seniors, so they are motivated. They are stronger on the pins (outside positions) and big in the middle. They ball-control well and don't make a lot of attacking errors.

"I really do believe that the entire league is better."

And Hawaii is better than expected. Both freshman Tara Hittle and junior transfer Victoria Prince have been impact players who, just a few months ago, were unknowns.

"Prince has impressive numbers," Seifert said. "And how nice to have a true freshman to rely on. Both are doing a nice job.

"Hawaii lost an amazing group last year, but tradition goes a long way. Kids come into that program expecting to win."

That's one thing SMU hasn't done against Hawaii. The Wahine have a 9-0 lead in the series; eight of those victories came in sweeps, including a 15-0 shutout in Game 1 in a 1997 match.

Notes: For the first time since the AVCA began producing a national poll in 1981, no school from the state of California is ranked in the Top 5. This week's poll has Washington at No. 1, followed by Minnesota, Hawaii, Nebraska and Penn State. ... Rice nearly moved into the national poll for the first time in school history. The Owls were five points away from cracking this week's Top 25. ... Hawaii returns home and will take on Rice on Thursday and Tulsa on Friday. Thursday's match marks the 10th anniversary of the Stan Sheriff Center.



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