POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Aug 24, 2012
LAST UPDATED: 01:46 a.m. HST, Aug 24, 2012
Long Beach Poly holds the distinction of being named Sports Illustrated's "Sports School of the Century." Along with Snoop Dogg and Cameron Diaz, alumni include some 50 NFL players, Tony Gwynn, Billie Jean King and Hawaii junior Mita Uiato.
As starting setter, Uiato is charged with choosing the ingredients that go best in the Rainbow Wahine attack. She has a fraction of a second to make the decision.
Uiato ultimately decides who gets the volleyball and how much. If her blend is off, so is the offense. If it is on, as it was so often in an all-conference season last year, she can stir up something special.
This season there will be a brand new blend. Jane Croson is the only starting attacker in the same position. In her second season, Uiato is all but starting her offense from scratch.
"I have to pick up the hitters' tendencies and set them fast, high, slow, low …," she says. "We talk about it, we film it, we see how it feels to try different sets for them. They try to adjust, I adjust. It's a lot of experimenting with each other and lots and lots and lots of reps. That's pretty much what camp is for — reps, reps and then try to incorporate it in game situations."
Surprisingly, she does not expect it to look all that different from the blend that won 31 matches and hit .291 — second-best in the nation —a year ago. The Wahine remain relatively small. All the outside hitters still prefer fast sets. The offense will remain "a little speedy."
There will be two new middles, which makes the mix unpredictable. Uiato is under coaches' orders to make the middle a bigger part of the offense, to keep opposing blocks honest and open up the outside. It is easily — and always — said, but difficult to accomplish, particularly if the passing is not precise.
Uiato is up for the challenge, whisk in hand, ready to try to create an unbeatable brew. She has the hopes of many — her teammates, coaches, family, an entire state — in her little hands, again.
"I am a small player, so at first (last year) it was hard to be big, be loud, set an offense and not be scared," she said. "It's really nerve-wracking playing here. But the best feeling is having your name called and playing on this court. For me, that's … I feel blessed."