Thursday, November 26, 2015         


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Good defense, full swings on display at scrimmage

By Cindy Luis


The kids are all right. And so are the returnees.

If yesterday's scrimmage at the Stan Sheriff Center is any indication, Hawaii is looking at another successful volleyball season. The Rainbow Wahine got a chance to swing away at each other in their first "real" competition as about 60 boosters and relatives watched for nearly 2 hours.

"The best thing about today was getting a feel for what it's going to be like Friday night," senior setter Dani Mafua said of the season opener against San Diego. "We've been mixing up the lineups all week, and today we got a look at who could be playing next to each other.

"Overall, we played good defense, and there was a good effort from everyone."

Wahine coach Dave Shoji continued to experiment with certain players, most noticeably Emily Hartong. The 6-foot-2 true freshman was used at both middle and left-side hitter yesterday, but she is expected to start Friday against the Toreros in the middle.

One other true freshman expected to start is 6-foot-3 Michelle Waber. She had 14 kills in yesterday's four-set scrimmage, second only to the 16 by junior All-American Kanani Danielson.

"It was a lot of fun today," Waber said. "I love how our team can go out there, play hard and be intense, but still have fun.

"Everyone is really competitive, being super aggressive and not afraid to swing. I'm really excited about this season."

Shoji, who enters his 35th season ranked No. 1 in wins among active D-I women's volleyball coaches (1,016), is optimistic.

"It was good today," he said. "We're going to be a good defensive team, and we are making the players aware that we want to be aggressive out there, take a full swing every time the ball is set and put the ball down.

"Our freshmen are going to be all right."

Shoji said he's looking for passing to continue to improve and to get more point production out of the middles. The pressure particularly will be on reigning Western Athlete Conference freshman of the year Brittany Hewitt, who ranked 20th nationally in blocking last season (1.33 bps) but had almost as many blocks (128) as kills (157).

Hawaii's athleticism is going to allow for more players to be taking swings out of the back row. In addition to Danielson, Waber and junior transfer Chanteal Satele are among those who have the green light, and "we're trying to push more hitters out of everywhere," Mafua said. "That (back-row) attack is going to be more of an option than an outlet."

Satele, a two-year starter at Saint Mary's, is expected to start Friday on the right side.

"We're going to have a good team," Satele said. "There's a lot of good players on this team, and it's going to be hard for the coaches to decide who's going to play.

"Today was just fun to be out on the floor in a game with people watching. It was good practice for the real thing. Friday's going to be exciting."

As for the scrimmage, both setters won two sets each. Mafua's team won Set 2 25-9 and Set 4 18-16, while freshman Mita Uiato's side won Set 1 25-19 and Set 3 25-18.

The highlight may have been freshman hitter Kaela Goodman's solo stuff of Danielson.

Danielson's double-double included 12 digs. Senior libero Elizabeth Ka'aihue had 18 digs and sophomore libero Emily Maeda 15. In blocking, Hewitt and freshman Kristiana Tuaniga were each in on five.

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