Penn State next for Rainbow Wahine

December 14, 2009, 2:25 PM HST · Updated December 14, 2:25 PM
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By Fred Guzman
MauiNow.com

The good news is that Hawaii advanced to the Final Four of the NCAA women’s volleyball tournament.

The daunting news is that the Rainbow Wahine’s semifinal opponent on Thursday night in Fort Lauderdale will be a Penn State team that over the weekend registered its 100th straight victory.

No. 2 Texas and No. 11 Minnesota will meet in the other semifinal.

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A source of motivation for UH in earning its first trip to the Final Four since 2003 was being seeded 12th in the tournament despite being ranked third nationally.

The under-sized Bows showed they belonged among the elite by sweeping 13th-seeded Michigan, 25-23, 25-19, 25-18 on Saturday to capture the Stanford Regional.

The victory extended Hawaii’s win streak to 28 and improved its season record to 32-2. But Penn State is 36-0 following a 25-18, 25-17, 25-22 sweep of California, putting the Nittany Lions in line for an unprecedented third straight NCAA title.

UH paid in the seeding process for belonging to the lightly-regarded WAC. But UH beat USC in LA last week and then eliminated a pair of Big Ten powers, Illinois and Michigan, at the regional.

Hawaii clearly belongs in the Final Four. But the bigger challenge is showing it can hang against a Penn State teams some are calling the greatest in NCAA history.

WIE SECOND: Michelle Wie staged a spirited rally, but fell short and had to settle for a second-place finish in the Dubai Ladies Masters. Wie started the final round 6 shots back of leader and eventual winner In Kyung Kim. Wie forged a bogey-free 7-under 65 to finish with a 15-under 273. Kim of South Korea shot a 68 for a four-round total of 18-under 270 to win by three shots. Wie had three birdies on the front nine and four more on the back, including 3 in a row on Nos. 12-14. She got within two shots of Kim going into the par-5 18th. But Wie parred the hole and Kim birdied.

BOWS WIN: Overcoming a slow start that resulted in a 17-12 deficit and a modest 33-26 halftime lead, UH picked up the pace in the 2H to rout Chicago State 83-58 on Saturday, improving to 5-4 as all 12 players in uniform scored.

Rod Flemings, playing with an injured thigh, led Hawai’i with 18 points, including 15 in the second half. He did not start because he sat out practice on Friday with his sore leg.

Dwain Williams made 3 of 5 from 3-point range and scored 15 points; Balocka had 12 points and eight rebounds; Hiram Thompson dished out nine assists; Brandon Adams had seven points and seven rebounds.

Hawaii’s next game is Dec. 22 against College of Charleston in the inaugural Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic. The Bows will play three games in four days during the tournament.

BJ PENN: Hilo’s BJ Penn defended his lightweight title with a dominant victory over No. 1 contender Diego Sanchez before nearly 14,000 fans in Memphis on Saturday night in the headline bout of UFC 107. The fight was stopped late in the fifth round, with Sanchez (21-3) bleeding profusely from a four-inch gash on his forehead. Penn improved to 15-5-1. So complete was Penn’s domination that he led on all three judges’ cards, 40-36, after four rounds. Penn appears to making a push with UFC president Dana White to perhaps stage a title bout at Aloha Stadium. … In another lightweight bout, Shane Nelson of Hilo lost a unanimous decision to Handsome Matt Wiman.

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