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UH sand volleyball team loses close match

By Ann Miller

LAST UPDATED: 1:57 a.m. HST, Mar 17, 2013

Before a few hundred friends, family and tourists and one governor, Hawaii’s first and final sand volleyball homestand provided some answers. Many more questions remain in this emerging sport’s second season.

The fifth-ranked Rainbow Wahine may have edged eighth-ranked Florida International on Friday in a dual match, but in today’s Hawaii tournament, UH’s top two teams clawed their way into the semifinals before falling to FIU’s top teams. Gov. Neil Abercrombie was a spectator today at Queen’s Beach Sandbox in Waikiki.

The tournament format had 16 teams — from UH, FIU, Hawaii Pacific and Chaminade — seeded into a single-elimination bracket.

Top-seeded Kate Stepanova — a 2012 All-American — and Ksenia Sukhareva won the final 21-13, 19-21, 15-7 over third-seeded FIU teammates Jessica Mendoza and Maryna Samoday.

Second-seeded Katie Spieler and Ginger Long swept fourth-seeded Hawaii teammates Tai Manu-Olevao and Natasha Bell 21-10, 21-16, in the match for third.

The results were illuminating for UH coach Scott Wong and his players in a few broad areas. Now they have to sort out some specifics — soon — as they set their lineup for the long road trip that is the rest of their season.

Florida International, a first-year program from Miami, helped immensely. Its top two doubles teams came in with wins over second-ranked Long Beach State’s top pairs and a three-set loss at top-ranked Pepperdine.

They gave the Wahine a good look at how far they have to go at the top two positions. The rest of the weekend showed UH how deep it is.

“I thought it was a real successful weekend,” Wong said. “I take a lot from this and I think our girls take a lot. Last year we were playing HPU, Chaminade and Nittaidai, and Nittaidai is not even close to FIU. We needed this. It’s helped us so much. … It’s huge that FIU is here.”

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