Tuesday, October 6, 2015         


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Coaches make UH No. 1 in preseason

By Ann Miller


While surprises are surely on the horizon when practice opens Monday, there was no surprise yesterday when the Western Athletic Conference volleyball coaches picked the University of Hawaii No. 1 in the Preseason Poll. Rainbow Wahine junior Kanani Danielson is the preseason player of the year.

Hawaii has won the past 12 WAC championships and is 237-6 in its 14 years of WAC membership. It received eight of nine first-place votes. Coaches cannot vote for their own team. New Mexico State came in second, followed by Fresno State and Utah State.

Danielson is a two-time All-American on the outside and last season's WAC player of the year. She was joined on the 12-player All-WAC preseason team by senior setter Dani Mafua, a second-team All-American, and middle Brittany Hewitt, the 2009 WAC freshman of the year.

NMSU had the most picks, with four. St. Francis graduate Kylie Harrington, a senior at Nevada, also was chosen.

UH coach Dave Shoji, who has six first-year players, said he did not want to "speculate" and nominate one for the preseason team before he knew if they could make an impact. He was disappointed senior libero Liz Kaaihue was not on the list.

"I think Liz will be an all-WAC performer," he said. "I think she will really come into her own, especially in the passing area. She's always been a great defender. ... I'm pretty confident she will be the best libero in the conference."

The 'Bows need to fill three starting pukas with the graduation of Aneli Cubi-Otineru and Amber Kaufman and Stephanie Ferrell's transfer to Florida. There will be four freshmen at practice Monday -- outsides Michelle Waber and Kaela Goodman, middle Emily Hartong and setter Mita Uiato.

Chanteal Satele also transferred home this spring after playing on the outside for Saint Mary's the past two years. Kristiana Tuaniga is a redshirt freshman middle. Defensive specialist Kristina Kam is out for the season with a knee injury.

Shoji has a pretty good idea of what Satele and Tuaniga can do. By the end of next week, he thinks he will have a good idea about the other four.

He will have to because the UH volleyball season basically works backwards. UH opens with the Chevron Rainbow Wahine Invitational, Aug. 27-29, with San Diego, Kansas State and UCLA. It plays five NCAA tournament teams the first three weeks, then Brigham Young, before opening the WAC season Sept. 23.

"We always use the WAC season to tweak anything we find out in the preseason," Shoji says. "In the preseason there is not a lot of time to experiment or look at a lot of lineups because you want to win those matches. We've got to play to win.

"The WAC season allows us to run some different things, look at alignments and that sort of thing. I'm real hesitant to do that in the preseason."

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