Sunday, November 29, 2015         


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San Diego nearly had UH's number

By Dave Reardon


We all knew San Diego had that number 22 next to it.

Not as lofty as the five attached to Hawaii in the national rankings.

But, still, it was a rating to be respected, at least a little. You have to be ready to play when you're starting the season against an opponent ranked 22nd in the nation -- even if you're the Rainbow Wahine, even if you're returning four starters from a final-four team. Even if you're 17 spots higher and playing host with maybe the best homecourt advantage in college volleyball.

The problem for UH was the Toreros played nothing like a team deserving of a spot in the poll in the first set last night at the Stan Sheriff Center. The team picked as the preseason favorites to win the West Coast Conference looked like some three-set chump that the Wahine would send home in less than an hour.

After UH dominated the first set thoroughly, what reason would anyone have to think San Diego would take the next two, and control of the match?

Hawaii coach Dave Shoji knew that first set was not indicative of the quality of opponent. Two hours and 22 minutes after the start of the season, the players -- and everyone watching -- were totally convinced, too. The Wahine knew they got away with one. They gave Division I women's college volleyball's winningest coach victory No. 1,017, but they gave him a few more gray hairs, too.

After Hawaii blasted the Toreros at a .357 clip in the first set, San Diego's block was in the right place so often in the next two that it seemed like it snuck an extra player or two onto the court.

Transfer hitter Chanteal Satele wasn't too surprised.

"I played them in the West Coast Conference and they're really good at making changes," said Satele, the Word of Life graduate who played at St. Mary's the past two years.

The soft-spoken junior helped spark the Wahine comeback with six kills and no errors in the fourth set. She and Kanani Danielson were unstoppable in the fourth, and Brittany Hewitt rediscovered her magic in the fifth.

Satele finished with 14 kills and a .303 hitting percentage in her UH debut.

"Chanteal was tremendous," Shoji said. "She was very aggressive the whole time. People think she's not aggressive because of her personality. Tonight she hit the ball with a lot of pace. When she does that she's very effective."

As did the new banner commemorating UH's many titles, her presence in the lineup brought back memories of the 1982 and 1983 NCAA championship teams. Satele's mother, Lee Ann, played on those squads, and her dad, Alvis, was a UH football player. Both were in attendance last night.

"It was special. It was real exciting to be out there in a jersey with Hawaii on it," Chanteal said.

The blasts from Satele's right arm were as loud and impressive as those of another new addition, the Supa Bowzooka, which fired T-shirts to previously uncharted sections of the upper deck.

"Not bad for the first time," promotions announcer Billy V said. "We'll work on it."

The same could be said for UH freshman Emily Hartong. She made some crucial contributions, but also some rookie mistakes -- like six service errors.

All told, the Wahine gave up 19 points on serves. They can't count on their opponents reciprocating with 15 every night.

"There were a lot of opening-night jitters," Shoji said.

Tonight's opponent, Kansas State, is unranked. But after what transpired last night, it's safe to say the Wahine won't look past anyone, at least for a while.

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