This fall Hawaii will play eight teams that advanced to last year’s NCAA volleyball tournament, including future Big West opponents Long Beach State and Cal State Fullerton, and Sweet 16 participant Ohio State.
The tentative 2011 Rainbow Wahine volleyball schedule will not be finalized until the Western Athletic Conference football schedule is confirmed. That could be as early as next week or not until next month.
The WAC volleyball tournament is scheduled to return to the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. That could change after the WAC Council meets in May.
Hawaii will host an NCAA regional, Dec. 9-10. Now it has to find a way to get there. UH ended last year 29-3, falling at Washington in the NCAA’s second round.
UH hosts four-team tournaments the first three weeks of the season. After an alumnae exhibition Aug. 20, Hawaii officially opens Aug. 26 against San Francisco. It plays 2011 NCAA tournament teams Wichita State and Arizona the next two nights. OSU, Long Beach State and UCLA come in the following weekend. Hilo’s Reed Sunahara brings his Cincinnati team to the third tournament, with Pacific and Rice.
Hawaii (14), Cincinnati (16), UCLA (20), Ohio State (29) and Wichita State (30) all finished in the top 30 of the NCAA’s final RPI last year.
The Wahine have rare nonconference road matches at Pepperdine, in September, and Fullerton, between the WAC tournament and NCAA tournament selection announcement. The Titans won their first Big West title last year and recently brought in a 6-foot-6 transfer to join a front line that goes 6-foot-2, 6-3 and 6-5.
The Wahine’s last WAC season opens at Idaho Sept. 22. Two nights later, they face Utah State, which broke UH’s 12-year grip on the WAC championship last November. Senior Night is Nov. 12 against New Mexico State.
UH is in the midst of offseason training. A new NCAA rule does not allow teams, with the exception of Hawaii, to travel more than 400 miles in "nontraditional seasons" so no opponent will come in for an exhibition this spring. The Wahine will play Hawaii Pacific and Brigham Young-Hawaii in a morning tournament this month and might travel to Southern California next month for a scrimmage at UCLA and tournament at USC. A beach tournament — sand volleyball is slated to become an NCAA sport next year — is also a possibility.
"Our schedule this spring, if it all comes through, will be a little better for us because we’ll see a lot more teams," said UH associate coach Scott Wong. "The thing that hurts is we don’t play at home, in front of our crowd, which we always want to do. It’s disappointing, but that’s the rule. Hopefully it will change."
Jade Vorster, a 6-5 freshman recruit from Florida, is already enrolled and training with the team. Freshmen Jane Croson, from California, and Ginger Long and Kalei Adolpho, from Maui and Molokai, will join her in August. Californian Monica Stauber, a setter/defensive specialist, also said she will be here.
All-American Kanani Danielson and Brittany Hewitt will return. Danielson has led UH in kills her first three seasons and Hewitt led the nation in blocking last season. She just returned from an open tryout for USA Volleyball in Colorado Springs.
The influx of new players, combined with the loss of just two seniors (Dani Mafua and Elizabeth Ka’aihue), makes for redshirt possibilities. The immediate concern is who will help Danielson pass.
"Libero is the big, big question mark," said UH coach Dave Shoji, who expects to have eight walk-ons trying to win the position. He is also contemplating the move to a 6-2 offense to bring in another hitter and bulk up the block.