Wahine crash out early in NCAA volleyball
By Fred Guzman
Not after being ranked third nationally as recently as two weeks ago and seemingly poised to make another run for a berth in the NCAA’s Final Four. Not after running off 23 straight victories that included sweeps of 17 straight matches against admittedly mediocre WAC opponents.
But Hawaii’s season crumbled to a stunning and abrupt end on Friday night in a decisive 25-17, 25-11, 25-23 defeat to 11th-ranked host Washington.
The stunningly lopsided loss resulted in Hawaii finishing its season at 29-3, losing two of its last three. The Rainbow Wahine will not qualify for the regionals for only the second time since the NCAA tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1998.
The first crack in Hawaii’s armor was exposed when the Wahine were the victims of a sweep of their own at the hands of Utah State in the WAC tournament final.
That loss resulted in the Rainbow Wahine falling to No. 7 in this week’s national rankings and, more significantly, to being seeded No. 15 in the NCAA national tournament.
UH got off to balky start in Thursday’s NCAA opener in Seattle, struggling in the first set before sweeping unheralded Big Sky champion Portland State 25-23, 25-19, 25-8.
Washington, which finished fifth in the far more competitive Pacific-10, schooled Hawaii on Friday and now will next host Nebraska in the regional. The Rainbow Wahine, meantime, are headed home to stay. So, for that matter, is Utah State. The Lady Aggies were swept by another Pacific-10 team, California.
All of which again goes to show that dominating the WAC, as UH has done for going on 15 years, does little to prepare team for a successful run at the national level.
UH FOOTBALL: Already assured of a share of the WAC football title and having clinched a bowl berth, Hawaii bids to complete a 10-win regular season when it plays Nevada-Las Vegas on Saturday night at Aloha Stadium.
Hawaii is a 35-point favorite over a UNLV team that comes into the 5:30 game with a 2-10 record. You can follow the action on AM-900.
MEN’S HOOPS: Hawaii will be seeking to rebound from its first loss of the season when it visits unbeaten and 21st-ranked BYU on Saturday. The Bows let one get away on Thursday, suffering a 54-53 defeat on a buzzer-beater at Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo.
BYU, led by pre-season all-American Jimmer Fredette, is 7-0. Fredette averaged 22.1 last season, leading BYU to a 30-6 record.
Unable to overcome 27 turnovers against Cal Poly, Hawaii suffered its 13th straight road setback in a game that ended on a controversial note.
When the final buzzer sounded, both teams were claiming victory. The Mustangs, because they felt guard Chris O’Brien’s putback shot had beaten the clock. The Bows, because they felt the shot was taken after time had expired.
In the absence of video replay, the officials ruled in favor of the home team and Hawaii was dealt its first loss of the season.