Had he chosen not to return to his alma mater in January to take over the UCLA women’s volleyball program, Mike Sealy would be in Seattle today, helping prepare Hawaii for its NCAA first-round match against Portland State.
Instead, the former Rainbow Wahine associate coach will be heading to Austin, Texas, for the Bruins’ first-round match with American University on Friday. Should UCLA win, the Bruins likely will visit ninth-seeded Texas.
"I like our bracket," Sealy said. "Getting to the regional is the tough part, but the path to the final four isn’t bad.
Second round, Friday
Radio: KKEA 1420-AM, Hawaii matches
"I think Hawaii is in the real nasty one. They could be playing Washington at Washington (in Friday’s second round) and, even if Washington isn’t as good as they’ve been, they’re still really tough at home."
(The Bruins split with the Huskies this season, getting swept in Seattle and winning in five in Los Angeles. Washington was 7-2 at home this season in the Pac-10, with the losses to current No. 2 Stanford and No. 4 California).
Sealy wouldn’t speculate about who might end up in the final four in two weeks, saying, "I think there are 10 teams, maybe more, that can make it this year. There’s not one lights-out team. Everyone’s had issues of some sort. At this point, it’s about hiding your weaknesses."
He also declined to comment on the apparent imbalance in the NCAA tournament bracket.
"But it doesn’t make sense to just seed 16 teams," Sealy said. "Football figured it out that they needed something besides the computer rankings. Why not factor in some of the coaches polls, the Pablo rankings.
"At some point, volleyball will have to crack that barrier, like basketball did, and seed all 64 teams."
Even the computer ranking didn’t help Hawaii with its seed. The Wahine remained at No. 11 in the RPI but still were seeded 15th.
Hawaii did drop four spots to No. 7 in yesterday’s AVCA Coaches Top 25. It is its lowest ranking of the season.
None of that mattered to the Hawaii coaching staff yesterday. They focused on Portland State, watching game film of the Vikings.
"They’re a good team," Wahine coach Dave Shoji said of the Big Sky champion. "Any time you’re a league champion, you’re a good team."
The Vikings (21-8) played only one ranked team this season, losing in three to then-No. 9 Washington in their third match of the season. Portland State also lost five-setters to Western Athletic Conference members Boise State and San Jose State.
Hawaii left last night, a change in the original travel plan. Shoji said they were unable to get a flight out this morning and didn’t want take an afternoon flight that would get them into Seattle late tonight.
The Wahine did not practice yesterday morning, and instead had light serve-and-pass and weightlifting sessions yesterday morning. The travel roster was 13 players, all of whom have seen some court time this season.