Tuesday, October 13, 2015         


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WAC tough up the middle

By Ann Miller


Before Fresno State flees the Western Athletic Conference, it might want to think about beating Hawaii in volleyball.

Going into today's 5 p.m. match at Stan Sheriff Center, the Bulldogs have played the Rainbow Wahine 47 times, and lost 47 times. A series that started in 1983 can't end fast enough for FSU.

Still, at 2-4 in the WAC, the Bulldogs (7-10 overall) are right in the middle of a wild mid-conference race that shows no sign of slowing — or coming close to catching fourth-ranked Hawaii (15-1, 5-0 WAC).

Every conference team but Louisiana Tech has at least two wins. New Mexico State, which has lost to UH in the past four WAC Tournament finals, needed five to beat Boise State on Thursday. Nevada is unbeaten in conference home matches, but hasn't won on the road.

"New Mexico is doing a nice job," said San Jose State coach Oscar Crespo after his team was swept by the Wahine on Friday. "I don't think we played them well the first time they played at our place. Probably played worse there than we did tonight.

"But after that you've got Nevada beating Boise on the road and Boise taking Utah State and Utah State battling out with everybody. I think there's a greater balance in the middle of it."

Then Crespo said something that sounded like it came straight out of the Hawaii playbook.

"We have an opportunity to be in the mix, much greater so than last year," Crespo said. "It will be about our composure and how well each of us plays on our side of the net and not worry so much what's on the other side. Recognize what's there, accept it and take care of your side."

That's all the Wahine talk about before and after WAC matches. After Friday's win — their NCAA-best 30th consecutive conference victory — they talked about coming out tonight with the same energy.

UH coach Dave Shoji remembered the frustration Fresno produced last year, when Hawaii needed four sets to win in Raisin Country. The Bulldogs have taken a set off UH each of the past three years.

"I remember lots of problems timing their offense," Shoji said. "They set the ball a little higher than we're used to seeing and it presents problems, especially on the right side."

This season, problems have been presented for other opponents by FSU junior Brianna Clark, who is 18th nationally in blocks, sophomore Marissa Brand, averaging three-plus kills and senior libero Kelly Mason, who is second to Hawaii's Elizabeth Ka'aihue in WAC digs.

But the Bulldogs, picked to finish third after they reached their first WAC Tournament semifinal in six years, have lost twice as many conference matches as they have won. And they are oh-for-Hawaii the past 27 years.

If you can't beat 'em, leave 'em.

The Wahine go on the road again after Fresno, playing at Idaho on Thursday, Boise State on Saturday and Utah State a week from tomorrow. The Idaho (5 p.m. Hawaii time) and USU (4 p.m.) matches will be shown live on ESPNU. All three will also be broadcast live on KKEA, 1420-AM.



  W L Pct. GB All
Hawaii 5 0 1.000 -- 15-1
New Mexico St. 6 1 .857 -- 12-9
Nevada 4 2 .667 1 1/2 10-9
Idaho 5 4 .556 2 10-10
Boise State 4 4 .500 2 1/2 17-6
San Jose State 3 5 .375 3 1/2 8-13
Utah State 2 4 .333 3 1/2 14-5
Fresno State 2 4 .333 3 1/2 7-10
Louisiana Tech 0 7 .000 6 10-12

New Mexico State def. Idaho 16-25, 18-25, 25-17, 25-16, 15-8
Boise State def. Louisiana Tech 25-17, 25-21, 25-19
Fresno State at Hawaii, 5 p.m., Live, TV: KFVE, ch. 5; Radio: KKEA 1420-AM Nevada at New Mexico State


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