Call Sweet 16 a family affair


POSTED: Friday, December 12, 2008

FORT COLLINS, Colo. » The holiday season includes an abundant use of the traditional colors of red and green.





Hawaii (30-3) vs. Purdue (26-8)

        When: 2 p.m. today, Hawaii time


Radio: KKEA, 1420-AM





This week's volleyball postseason means the same for the Shoji family. Lots of Stanford red and Hawaii green.

Courtesy of the NCAA tournament bracket, the Shoji population here in Colorado's fifth-largest city grew by four for the regional at Colorado State. The family reunion has coach Dave Shoji on the Moby Arena floor first as his seventh-seeded Hawaii team goes against No. 10 seed Purdue. (2 p.m. Hawaii time). The second match has No. 2-seeded Stanford—with Shoji's daughter Cobey as director of volleyball operations—taking on Florida, the No. 15 seed.

Up in the stands will be Shoji's two sons, Kawika and Erik, both wearing green ... at least for the first match. The brothers may swap shirts for the second, as both are on the Stanford men's volleyball team.

And if Hawaii and Stanford meet tomorrow in the regional final?

“;We'll cheer for both teams,”; Kawika, a junior at Stanford, said. “;I'd never be able to cheer against the Wahine. I have friends on both teams.

“;If the match does happen, I'd never be able to go against my blood.”;

The brothers were to arrive this morning after an overnight flight from California following Kawika's last final.

“;If they're both lucky enough to win, I think it will be a fun match to watch,”; Erik Shoji, a freshman at Stanford, said. “;I don't think it would be that weird to cheer for Hawaii. We cheer for family.

“;We've been wanting them to play each other for a while but it hasn't happened.”;

Since Cobey Shoji was hired by Stanford in 2004, there have been two previous opportunities for the collision. One in the 2004 NCAA regional at Green Bay, Wis., the other in the AVCA/NACWAA Showcase in Omaha.

While the Cardinal won each time, the Wahine lost their two matches, preventing the “;Shoji Showdown.”; If the third time is a charm, “;it puts me in a worst-case scenario,”; Cobey Shoji said.

“;It's unfortunate that it's such a crucial match, with so much on the line. One team goes to the final four, the other goes home,”; she added. “;I work for Stanford. I grew up in Hawaii with Hawaii volleyball. I will be happy with either team winning and sad with either team losing.”;

Last week, Stanford eliminated long-time Hawaii nemesis Long Beach State in the second round. Cobey Shoji said it was difficult to explain to the Cardinal why she had so much vested in the outcome.

“;They wanted to know what the big deal was,”; she said. “;I told them, 'You don't understand. I grew up wanting to beat them.' They were the big rival.”;

“;Long Beach represents a lot of memories for Hawaii fans,”; Dave Shoji said.

The worst memory was in 1989 when Hawaii was hosting the final four for the first time. The Wahine fell to Long Beach State in the regional final, the night after the 49ers upset host Pacific—then coached by current Stanford coach John Dunning. The Beach came to Honolulu and left with the NCAA trophy.

That year was the first time that a birth of a Shoji child didn't coincide with a national title. Cobey was born in 1979, the year the Wahine won the AIAW championship, and Kawiika was born in 1987, the year of Hawaii's third and last NCAA tittle.

Erik was born in 1989.

While Cobey hasn't seen her father in several months, she sees her brothers and other Hawaii prep products attending Stanford quite often. Jordan Inafuku (Kamehameha), Spencer McLachlin (Punahou) and Brad Lawson ('Iolani) are also on the Cardinal men's team.

“;It's fun having them all there, especially having seen them all grow up and play volleyball together,”; Cobey said. “;It's really neat for them to go to college together. It's like having a family away from home.

“;I used to be known as Dave's daughter. Now I'm Kawika's and Erik's sister. But it's nice to know the family name has a great legacy in the volleyball world.”;

Another chapter could be added tomorrow but “;we are not going to talk about it,”; Dave Shoji said. “;I'm happy the boys are able to make it. It's an added treat for me.

“;But Cobey is here, doing her job. And it's all about Purdue for me right now.”;

Still ...

“;It's a good time to be a Shoji,”; Erik said. “;I'm only packing Hawaii stuff. It's all green and white.”;

But if he needs some red, he knows where he can borrow some.



Dave Shoji's wife Mary was unable to attend this week's competition and returned to Honolulu after last week's wins in Los Angeles.