Subregional reunion


POSTED: Friday, December 04, 2009

LOS ANGELES » When it comes to real estate, it's “;location, location, location.”;

When it comes to volleyball, it's “;connection, connection, connection.”;

Especially here in this week's NCAA subregional hosted by Southern Cal. There's no such thing as six degrees of separation; it's more like one.

Consider that:

» While in high school in Minnesota, Hawaii associate coach Kari Anderson Ambrozich played club ball for New Mexico coach Jeff Nelson.

» While in high school in Los Angeles, Hawaii sophomore hitter Stephanie Ferrell played club ball for USC coach Mick Haley's wife, Carrie.

» Rainbow Wahine sophomore hitter Corinne Cascioppo originally committed to USC while in high school.

» Both USC and Oklahoma advanced to the regional hosted by Hawaii in 2006, with the Sooners losing to UCLA and the Bruins then eliminating the Rainbow Wahine.

» When Hawaii and Texas met for the NCAA title in 1988, it was the first time that at least one California school wasn't playing for the championship. The coaches? Shoji (Hawaii) and Haley (Texas).

» And, of course, for the second year in a row, Hawaii begins the postseason at USC with the potential of another second-round match-up between the Wahine and Trojans.





        At Los Angeles

First round

        » Hawaii (28-2) vs. New Mexico (20-9), 3 p.m.
        » USC (21-9) vs. Oklahoma (18-11), 5 p.m.


Second round

        » Today's winners, 5 p.m.




Radio: KKEA 1420-AM today, KWAI 1080-AM tomorrow




The last item came as a surprise to Haley.

“;We had no indication that we'd host,”; he said. “;When you look at the bracket, it's hard to figure the criteria for the RPI.

“;But you go through the season with the idea that you have to be prepared for anybody. There were bleak times during our season when our kids lost confidence. We are just happy that we got into the tournament. And, as Tarzan once said, if given the choice of where to fight, you want the enemy to come to you.”;

Neither Haley nor Shoji is looking ahead to a potential meeting tomorrow. The “;one and done”; reality has the two veteran coaches focused on their respective opponents today.

“;I saw Oklahoma nearly beat Nebraska,”; Haley said. “;They are very similar to Hawaii and I would think that an Oklahoma-Hawaii match would be pretty exciting, but I don't want that to happen, of course.”;

Hawaii swept USC at the Galen Center last year, 25-21, 25-18, 25-22. It was the second time in three years that the Women of Troy had their season ended by the Wahine; Hawaii outlasted USC in five in the 2006 regional semifinal.

“;USC basically has the same team as last year, except for a new setter, and runs the same offense,”; Shoji said. “;I think they're better than last year and I think we're way better than last year.

“;But we both have business to take care of before we can talk about seeing each other.”;

Nelson said he'd like to become part of the conversation. In his third year at New Mexico, he has the Lobos back in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1994.

“;All of our student-athletes have worked very hard to get New Mexico back on the volleyball map,”; Nelson said. “;We're excited to be in this group with some of the most storied programs in NCAA volleyball.

“;I look forward to playing Dave and the Hawaii volleyball team. I have the utmost respect for their program. My Texas Tech team played at Hawaii in the (2000) subregional and it was a great experience.”;

And another connection.





        Here's a look at the teams in the NCAA volleyball subregional hosted by USC:

No. 3 Hawaii (28-2)


The Rainbow Wahine, winners of 24 straight, are the only seed (12) in this subregional.


Hawaii is making its 28th appearance in the NCAA tournament (65-24), having missed only 1992. The Wahine won the Western Athletic Conference with a 16-0 regular-season mark and adding the WAC tournament title.


Sophomore hitter Kanani Danielson, the WAC player of the year, leads Hawaii in kills (396, 4.12 kps), hitting percentage (.335), digs (217, 2.26 dps) and points (443).


Joining her on the outside is senior hitter Aneli Cubi-Otineru (293 kills, 3.12 kps), who is 23 kills away from becoming the 16th Wahine to reach 1,000, the second to do so while playing just three seasons for UH. She also has 51 aces, ranking eighth in the country.


Senior middle Amber Kaufman is hitting .451, fourth nationally. WAC freshman of the year Brittany Hewitt is 15th in blocks (1.33 bps).


Coach Dave Shoji is in his 35th season (1,004-175-1, four national titles—1979, 1982, 1983, 1987).


Hawaii leads the series with Oklahoma 6-0; with USC 20-16 (4-3 postseason) and with New Mexico 2-0.


No. 13 USC (21-9)


The Women of Troy tied for fifth in the Pac-10 (10-8) and have won their last six matches, including an upset of No. 4 Washington. USC is 58-22 in NCAA tournament play with three NCAA titles (1981, 2002, 2003) and has reached the final four in five of the past nine seasons. SC also has three AIAW titles (1976, 1977, 1980).


Leading the Women of Troy are sophomore hitter Alex Jupiter (4.57 kills, 2.72 digs) and senior hitter Jessica Gysin (3.43 kps, 2.94 dps). Sophomore Kendall Bateman leads the nation in assists (12.51 aps) and has helped the team to a national-best 15.08 kps average.


Coach Mick Haley is in his ninth season at USC (225-53, two NCAA titles 2002-03). He is 747-190 at the Division I level, with two titles at Texas (AIAW 1981, NCAA 1988), the latter when the Longhorns defeated Hawaii.


New Mexico (20-9)


The unranked and unseeded Lobos finished third in the Mountain West (10-6) and are making their eighth NCAA tournament appearance (5-7), and first since 1994.


UNM has five players averaging more than two kills per set, led by All-MWC junior hitter Taylor Hadfield (.2.65 kps) and senior hitter Rose Morris (2.62). Junior setter Jade Michaelsen, another All-MWC pick, is averaging 10.84 assists.


Coach Jeff Nelson (300-176 overall) is in his third season and won his 300th career match last week against New Orleans.


Oklahoma (18-11)


The unranked and unseeded Sooners finished tied for fourth in the Big 12 (11-9). Oklahoma is making its sixth NCAA tournament appearance (7-5), and first since 2007.


The Sooners have dropped their last three, including losses to No. 2 Texas and No. 7 Iowa State. They are led by sophomore hitters Suzy Boulavsky (3.07 kps) and Caitlin Higgins (2.24 kps, 3.13 dps), and junior middle Francis Ekwerekwu (2.66 kps, 93 blocks).


Coach Santiago Restrepo is in his sixth season (99-82).


Cindy Luis, Star-Bulletin