Monday’s volleyball blowout of Louisiana Tech provided a rare solo stage for fourth-ranked Hawaii’s second team. Six reserves started and, more importantly, finished the final set in a 25-13, 25-11, 25-18 Western Athletic Conference mugging.
When tomorrow’s match against Division-II Hawaii Pacific was broached, the Rainbow Wahine compared the Sea Warriors (16-5) favorably to LaTech, which has not won in the WAC.
"We have to expect the unexpected," said redshirt freshman Kristiana Tuaniga. "I think they (the Sea Warriors) could beat LaTech, so we just have to be prepared and work hard."
"We want to prove ourselves, basically bring ourselves up to a different level no matter who we’re playing," said junior Alexis Forsythe, UH’s other backup middle blocker. "We’re just ready for whatever comes at us."
No. 4 Hawaii (22-1)
» When: 7 p.m., tomorrow
» Where: Stan Sheriff Center
» TV: Live on KFVE
» Radio: Live on KKEA, 1420-AM
» Exhibition: Annual Wahine alumnae game, 5 p.m.
Tuaniga hit .700 against the Techsters in two matches, with seven of her eight kills this season. Forsythe went 5-for-6 on Monday with six stuffs. It is more than 20 percent of her season total. Last year, Forsythe made Illinois forget Amber Kaufman was injured in the NCAA Regional semifinal, taking over in a seamless transition to help UH reach the final four.
All the reserves’ energy and efficiency were the high points of Monday’s match. The rest of the Wahine see it every day in practice, where the backups hold their own in scrimmages. They rarely get a chance to play together in matches, particularly in front of 5,000 people, but this week could offer them two opportunities.
Hawaii moved up to No. 7 in the NCAA’s weekly D-I RPI on Monday (the Rainbow Wahine will probably drop next week because DI- teams are penalized for playing opponents from other divisions). HPU is No. 9 in the West in D-II’s weekly regional rankings. The Sea Warriors are 10-4 in the Pacific West Conference and third behind UH-Hilo, which has won its last 12, and Brigham Young-Hawaii, beaten twice by HPU.
HPU lost to eighth-place Notre Dame de Namur on Monday after beating the Argonauts four days earlier. The Sea Warriors host Academy of Art tonight, then close the regular season in Manoa and Hilo (Nov. 13).
HPU’s attack is led by PacWest player of the week Kelly Balanay, who is first on the team in kills and blocks and hit .510 last week. Natasha Bell is second in kills and has 25 aces — two more than UH leader Kanani Danielson. The Sea Warriors lead D-II nationally in digs, at 20.53, and Kyra Pelayo is third individually at nearly seven a set.
UH and HPU, whose athletic departments are four miles apart, have not played since 2001 — three years after former Wahine All-American Tita Ahuna guided the Sea Warriors to their only NCAA D-II volleyball championship.
No one is quite sure what to expect tomorrow, but UH (22-1) is preparing as if it is another WAC match as it tries to extend its winning streak to 18. Having won their last 44 sets, Rainbow Wahine players are seeking the "perfect" match.
Coach Dave Shoji would not mind a repeat of Monday. "I’m hoping we can get everybody in and reward people for working hard," he said.
» Senior Elizabeth Ka’aihue is now fourth on the career digs list with 1,288. She passed sister-in-law Kanoe (Kamana’o) Ka’aihue last week. The UH libero is averaging 4.62 digs a set and is on pace to shatter Ashley Watanabe’s record of 4.22, set in 2004 when teams played to 30 points instead of 25. Ka’aihue’s dig average is more than five in the WAC, and she is also second on the team with 19 aces. Kim Willoughby holds the UH career record for digs with 1,440, followed by Tita Ahuna (1,384) and Tara Hittle (1,315).
» UH plays three road matches next week before returning for its final home match, Nov. 18 against Idaho. The WAC tournament is Nov. 22-24 at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. The top two teams get byes Nov. 22, with semifinals the next day (3 and 5:30 p.m., Hawaii time) and the championship Nov. 24 (4:30 p.m.), to be shown on ESPNU.
» Hawaii still leads the country in attendance at 6,178, averaging about 1,300 more than Nebraska. All 17 UH home matches are among the top 24 crowds of the year. Last year, the Wahine drew 6,423 a match.