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UCLA coach Sealy happy to be back

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There have been many chicken-skin moments in the Stan Sheriff Center for Mike Sealy, but a few especially stand out for the former Hawaii associate volleyball coach.

» Rainbow Wahine coach Dave Shoji’s 1,000th career win last season. ("That was a pretty good one," Sealy, the first-year UCLA coach, said).

» The 2006 regional semifinal victory over USC that went five ("Probably one of the greatest sporting events I’ve ever been a part of.").

» His first senior night in 2006 ("First, it was a big match with New Mexico State to win the league and then not realizing it was senior night until everything started. It was awesome.").

» And his first match on the UH bench against Pepperdine in 2006. ("When they played ‘Hawaii Pono’i’ … that was chicken skin.")

All those should pale in comparison to this afternoon when Sealy hears "Hawaii Pono’i" before his 16th-ranked Bruins (2-0) take on the fifth-ranked Wahine (2-0) in the 5 p.m. finale of the Chevron Invitational.

"I’m doing my best to keep all the tears in this weekend," Sealy said. "Playing against Dave … I have been so locked into what we need to work on, what we’re doing, that I haven’t thought about anything outside of that.

"I’m sure when it comes, I’ll be more emotional, but I’ve been focused on what we need to do."

Sealy, who traded living in Kailua for Santa Monica, Calif., said he’d been back to Hawaii a couple of times since officially taking the job at his alma mater Feb. 10. But it wasn’t for competition.

"I didn’t think it would be a big deal (returning to Hawaii)," said Sealy, whose team defeated No. 22 San Diego last night. "But then landing at Honolulu airport for a work trip, a volleyball trip … it was a little overwhelming."

Sealy said the transition back to Westwood "has been great."

"I’ve reacclimatized from a tropical volcano to the big city," he said. "Being back in the arena … I was very comfortable sitting in those chairs, the same chairs I’ve sat in for four years."

Watching the Wahine was also very familiar, including Hawaii’s freshmen. Sealy helped recruit a number of the current players "but I can’t take too much credit," he said. "Dave has created an amazing program and the fans are unbelievable. They’re the ones who make the experience so great that recruits sending back their questionnaires write, ‘I’m dying to come to Hawaii.’"

This won’t be the first time that Shoji has faced a former assistant across the net.

"I’m happy to see him as a head coach," Shoji said. "I think he’ll do a great job. I wish him success … except for (today)."

 

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