POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Aug 2, 2011
With low expectations comes great opportunity.
The Hawaii women's soccer team was voted seventh of eight teams in the Western Athletic Conference preseason coaches poll announced Monday, a placement that new coach Michele Nagamine laughed off as standard fare for a team in transition.
"I think the fun part is there's no pressure on us," Nagamine said. "We're just going to go in and compete and do the best we can, and hopefully we make some forward progress. It's what I expected, absolutely."
The Rainbow Wahine failed to qualify for the past two WAC tournaments, ending Pinsoom Tenzing's 17-year run as head coach. UH finished eighth last year with a 1-5-2 record in WAC play and a 3-14-3 mark overall.
Nagamine gets eight starters and 18 letterwinners back from that squad, but warned that much will change on her watch, starting at the team's first practice on Wednesday. Eleven newcomers were added to the mix.
"We've all been given an opportunity to compete. We can't take that for granted," said Nagamine, the former Kamehameha and Hawaii Pacific coach who is just the second at UH in 18 years of the program.
"I think the players need to be very, very aware, if they don't want to work, they don't need to work. They don't need to be here. This is definitely the season of stepping up to pretty much divide the women from the girls.
"I pity the fools who didn't come back fit, to quote my old childhood idol Mr. T," she added with a laugh — one that suggested she wasn't kidding.
Defending regular-season champions San Jose State and Utah State were voted the favorites to win again with 42 points and three first-place votes each. The 2010 WAC tournament champion, Fresno State, earned 38 points and two first-place votes.
Idaho and Louisiana Tech followed in the middle of the pack with 33 and 20 points, respectively. UH garnered 17 points and trailed sixth-place Nevada by one. New Mexico State, the only other WAC school with a new coach, was picked last with 11 points.
No UH players were selected to the preseason All-WAC team.
UH opens the season on Aug. 19 against Washington State at Waipio Peninsula Soccer Stadium.