Rainbow Wahine look
for lost magic on
long road trip

Hawaii is making its longest
trip of the season with WAC stops
at New Mexico and Louisiana

Wahine Volleyball

Tomorrow: No. 11 Hawaii (7-6, 1-0) at Louisiana Tech (12-4, 0-2), 2 p.m. HST.

Saturday: Hawaii at New Mexico State (6-3, 0-2), 3 p.m. HST.

TV: None.

Radio: Both matches live, KKEA (1420 AM).

Series: UH leads LaTech, 4-0; leads NMSU, 16-0.

The WAC farewell tour begins tomorrow for Susie Boogaard, Victoria Prince and Ashley Watanabe, the three seniors on Hawaii's 11th-ranked Rainbow Wahine volleyball team. In some ways, it could also be called a Magical Mystery Tour.

There's mystery in wondering if Hawaii can recapture the magic, as UH coach Dave Shoji says, of playing well together consistently and sweep the first Western Athletic Conference road trip of the season. Hawaii has won 92 consecutive WAC matches -- 107 counting the WAC tournament.

There's also the mystery for the players in experiencing a new gym when visiting conference newcomer New Mexico State.

However, the trip is about more than volleyball. Although Louisiana Tech is some 330 miles northwest of New Orleans, the Rainbow Wahine expect to see the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita when traveling for tomorrow's match in Ruston, La.

"Hopefully, we'll take something from this trip besides having played volleyball," libero Watanabe said. "It will be about life in general.

"When we come together before every game to talk about things and have a little prayer. One of the themes lately is being grateful to have the opportunity to focus on volleyball and not be worried about a disaster destroying our homes."

"I'm sure it's going to be an eye-opening situation," added outside hitter Boogaard. "It's going to be amazing to see what they've gone through. It's going to remind us how lucky we are to live in Hawaii, that it didn't happen to us."

As much as the Wahine didn't know what to expect when driving from Shreveport to Ruston today, the players also weren't sure what to expect when playing at New Mexico State. Hawaii hasn't faced the Aggies in Las Cruces since 1995 when both teams were in the Big West.

"I don't know if our players even know where Las Cruces is," said Shoji, who has been to NMSU a number of times and whose brother Tom coached there from 1981-86. "I do know they've got a good fan following (1,863 average) and they'll be loud.

"It's the longest trip we've got in terms of distance. It's a tough road trip but we should be fine."

Both Louisiana Tech and New Mexico State are back home after both going 0-2 on the road last week. Their results were identical; both were swept by Utah State and both took Nevada to five before falling.

"We had no offense during our first two conference matches," said LaTech coach Heather Mazeitis, whose team had 26 kills and hit .020 at Utah State, and hit just .109 at Nevada. "Going five games at Nevada is a positive from this weekend, but there's no excuse for the scores against Utah State.

"The WAC is full of strong teams, and I feel we're all very comparable."

The Lady Techsters have added some international firepower and experience to a program that went 9-43 in the previous four WAC seasons. Transferring from Navarro (Texas) Junior College are Brazilians Anielle DaSilva (5-11 junior hitter) and Maria Romanowski (5-9 sophomore setter), while Canadian Carly Johnson (6-3 sophomore middle) comes in after seeing limited time at Montana State.

Tech is young, with just one senior and two juniors. Only one player, junior defensive specialist Sabrina Sims, is from Louisiana ... and from Lake Charles, a town hit hard by Hurricane Rita.

"So that is something right in front of us every day," Mazeitis said of Sims' situation. "We were not directly affected by (Katrina) but the city of Ruston has many evacuees. Also having Tulane's football team operating out of our campus is a constant reminder of the damage that the storm caused to many people.

"We're all adjusting and trying to help out all that we can."

Hawaii doesn't expect much in the way of crowd support at the Thomas Assembly Center (8,000). For most of their road matches, Wahine fans normally outnumber those for the home team ... but it likely won't happen at Ruston.

"Games like this it feels like it's just you and your team," middle blocker Prince said.

This will be the closest to her home state of Alabama that Wahine freshman hitter Jamie Houston will get before Christmas. Both of her parents are making the trip which Houston estimates is a 13-hour drive.

"And I'm sure my mom will be bringing some friends along," Houston said.

What the Wahine hope they brought along was the feeling they had in beating Loyola Marymount on Saturday. Hawaii came back from deficits of 22-13 and 27-20 in Game 2 en route to a 31-29 win and a sweep of the Lions.

"That comeback was a lot of fun," Houston said. "Those of us on the bench were yelling our heads off. We were out there with them in that game. Once we started getting some points, you could feel it."

It was a feeling that Hawaii had for most of last season when going 30-1.

"I always believed we'd win it," Prince said. "It was the same feeling we had last year, taking one point at a time, making really smart plays.

"We were looking into each other's eyes and everyone had the same look. We all believed. You just know it's going to happen. It is magic. You never know when it's going to come, then all of sudden, you know it, you feel it."

Notes: Hawaii is 125-1 in regular-season WAC matches since joining the conference in 1996. The Wahine's lone loss was on the road at BYU on Oct. 10, 1997. They are 144-3 in all WAC matches, including the seven conference tournaments where their record is 19-2 with both losses coming to BYU. ... The first RichKern.com Regional Computer Index was released yesterday. The RKPI is unofficial but uses a formula similar to that used by the NCAA. Hawaii is ranked second in the West Region, behind BYU, and 14th overall. The complete index is available at www.RichKern.com.

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