Maui Fans Cheer Hawaii Volleyball Against NebraskaMarch 24, 2012, 9:08 AM HST · Updated March 24, 12:32 PM 0 Comments
By Rodney S. Yap
Maui loves University of Hawaii women’s volleyball.
A sold-out crowd of 2,400 arrived at War Memorial Gym early and stayed late Friday night to see a rare “live” performance by the Rainbow Wahine. And while Hawaii came up short on the scoreboard, falling to Nebraska 25-23, 25-16, 25-15, 25-16, the spring exhibition match was a huge success.
“It was exciting to see how much support Maui can get,” said redshirt freshman Ginger Long, who is one of two former Maui Interscholastic League players on the Hawaii roster. “It would be nice to come back again.”
“The crowd was what I expected and Maui was just great for us,” said Hawaii head coach Dave Shoji. “I am disappointed that we couldn’t give them a better show, because they were ready to cheer us on. It was electric out there and we really appreciate the fans.”
Shoji could not remember the last time Hawaii played on the Valley Isle, recalling a trip in the early ’90s.
“We can’t do it every year, but we would like to do it again,” the coach said.
Nebraska, 25-5 last year, took advantage of its height — seven players 6-foot-1 or taller —and more experienced lineup. The Huskers rallied from a six-point deficit in the first set, 14-8. A UH error helped the visitors tie it at 19-19 before senior setter Lauren Cook served the next six points to put Nebraska ahead for good, 24-19. The Wahine trimmed the led to 24-23 before Gina Mancuso’s kill sealed the win.
Winning the first set helped Nebraska find its tempo.
“I thought that once we got through game one we got into a really nice rhythm,” said Nebraska head coach John Cook. “Lauren did a really good job. If we can pass her the ball she can really get into a rhythm and our hitters, you could tell they could hit any shot they wanted. They just got really confident and again that is why we didn’t give up any big runs. This was the first time we’ve played so getting that rhythm this early was probably some what of a surprise.”
Mancuso finished with five kills in the first game and a team high 16 kills for the Huskers. Hannah Werth added 15 kills and 17 digs.
“Their good and its spring, but I am really disappointed in our performance tonight. We’ve worked hard and we didn’t show it tonight,” Shoji said. “We don’t have enough pieces right now. We need to get better in the middle, shore up our passing and find someone for the right side. We know we have some pop out there with Emily (Hartog) and Jane (Croson). I like our left, it’s not enough, but I’m not worried about that position.”
Hartog finished with a match-high 18 kills. Croson had eight kills and two digs. Jade Vorster and Mita Uita Uiato both had five blocks. Uiato also recorded 34 assists.
Croson, who uses her signature sky-toss when serving, never got untracked offensively.
“She was out of rhythm from the very start. She couldn’t get her serve in from the pregame warmups,” Shoji said of Croson.
Maui fans went crazy whenever Long or Molokai native Kalei Adolpho touched the ball, cheering every pass, dig, serve or block.
“It’s frustrating knowing that we loss such a big part of our team,” Adolpho said of Hawaii’s struggles. “But I am excited about being a big part of this team and trying to help the team in whatever way I can.”
Adolpho finished with four kills, mostly off short sets in the middle, and Long added a pair. Both MIL standouts played significant minutes.
“Yeah I was really grateful to get the time that I did get to play,” Long said. “Anything to contribute to the team is worthwhile for me.”
The Maui crowd lined up around the Sakamoto Pool to War Memorial Stadium hours before the match. Afterwards they lined up for autographs and posed for pictures with the players.