comscore Shoji says no job is safe after Wahine’s first loss | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
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Shoji says no job is safe after Wahine’s first loss

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They’re definitely a group of fighters, and that’s the good news. But that wasn’t enough for the University of Hawaii women’s volleyball team Sunday against rival UCLA.

Although outplayed most of the evening, the Wahine beat back four match points and were within one of sending it to a deciding fifth set in front of a nearly full house, including the governor and the university president.

But UH made way too many mistakes, forced and unforced, against its first ranked opponent. That has coach Dave Shoji going back to the drawing board following the first loss of the season after five wins — this, after believing he had the right lineup in place heading into the season.

“Everything looked good and solid,” he said. “Obviously other teams have exposed us. We still have good players and good depth. We just have to find the right combination.”

Shoji said he is proud of his team for the way it battled. He should be … but now he has to re-figure which members of that team should be out on the court together.

Last week he emptied his bench because he could. This Sunday he did because he had to.

“Our lineup is what I question now,” Shoji said. “It’s just not worked out. I told the team we’ve got to go back in the practice gym and you have to earn your position for next week.”

He said Tayler Higgins was still the starting setter, at least for now. But also that 6-foot-1 sophomore Kendra Koelsch — who played enough to attempt 25 sets Sunday — will get more opportunities.

“I think it’s open because Kendra gives us an added dimension blocking. Kendra seems to make things happen,” Shoji said. “(Higgins) is struggling with location, struggling with selection. Right now she’s our starter. But we can give Kendra more playing time, especially in the front row.”

Higgins, a junior and second-year starter, said she and her teammates know major changes could be coming.

“It’s not something we’re totally unaware of,” she said. “There’s some things we do, things that I do. I make the same errors over and over again.”

It wasn’t all on Higgins, but the setter is like the quarterback in football — a lot of criticism when a team struggles, because it’s the position that controls what happens the most.

UCLA ran off points in bunches, in large part because the Wahine hit a meager .119, committed nine service errors and were out-dug by 15.

Megan Huff won’t help much with the last two problems, but she can definitely aid in the hitting. Huff was error-free with four kills in 11 swings and gave the Wahine a boost to come back in the fourth set.

“Unfortunately she plays the same position as (two-time first-team Big West hitter) Nikki (Taylor),” Shoji said. “It’s going to be hard to get her on the court (more) unless we go to another system. We can give her a chance to play on the left and keep Nikki on the right.”

That could mean less playing time for Tai Manu-Olevao. She had six kills, but also nine errors in 18 attempts Sunday.

Overall, the stats might not look like it, but the Wahine put up a hard fight.

Now they have to battle for their positions again.

Reach Dave Reardon at or 529-4783. His blog is at

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