While Hawai'i is the team to watch, seven other teams will be out to challenge the top-seeded Rainbow Wahine when the Western Athletic Conference volleyball Tournament gets under way today at the University of Nevada in Reno.
So, how strong is Hawai'i? The two-time defending WAC Tournament champion Rainbow Wahine enter the tournament as regular season Western Division champs with a 25-1 overall record (13-0 WAC) and No. 2 national ranking. The only blemish on their record came before a sellout crowd of 10,252 at the Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu against Stanford on Nov. 10. Furthermore, Hawaii owns a 65-match conference winning streak and has won seven straight regular season WAC titles.
The closest call the Rainbow Wahine had against a WAC opponent came on Nov. 15 when they won an exciting five-game match at Fresno State, 30-19, 30-24, 25-30, 22-30, 15-10. It was the first time all season they had lost any game to a WAC opponent and the first time they've been taken to five games by a WAC team since Oct. 18, 2001.
The WAC Tournament begins today with the first session at Nevada's Old Gym when Hawai'i takes on No. 8 seed Louisiana Tech at noon, followed by a 2 p.m. match between No. 4 San Jose State and No. 5 Rice. The second session starts at 5:30 with a match between No. 2 Fresno State and No. 7 SMU, then No. 3 Nevada plays No. 6 UTEP at 7:30. Action continues with the semifinals on Saturday and the championship match is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Sunday.
Host Nevada, looking for its second straight trip to the NCAA Tournament, is coming off a regular-season ending victory (30-13, 30-27, 30-20) against Boise State this past Saturday in Reno. The Wolf Pack is 22-2 over the past two seasons at home in the Virginia Street Gym, both losses have come to Hawai'i.
Saturday's performance gave sixth-year head coach Devin Scruggs her 100th career victory, all coming at Nevada. Scruggs has a career mark of 100-66. Under her direction the Pack qualified for NCAA Tournament in 1998 and 2001.
Michelle More, a 6-foot-2 senior middle blocker, finished the Boise State match with 16 kills, giving her a school single-season record 473 this season. More currently ranks second in school history with 1,415 career kills and she is the Wolf Pack's career leader in solo blocks (85), block assists (327), and total blocks (412).
Senior setter Jill Couwenhoven leads the WAC in assists, averaging 13.19 per game, and her 2,934 career assists currently rank third on the career list at Nevada.
Kellie Burton, a Galena High School graduate and first-year transfer from Arizona, ranks third on the team in blocking with a .75 block per game average and sixth in kills (1.91 average). She has started all 26 matches for the Wolf Pack and was honored as a Sands Regency-SBC Invitational All-Tournament Selection.
More was named to the first-team and Couwenhoven to the second-team on the all-conference list announced earlier this week. Salaia Salavea also received Freshman of the Year honors and was named second-team all-conference for the Wolf Pack.
Kim Willoughby of Hawai'i was named WAC Player of the Year for the second straight year. Willoughby, a junior left-side hitter from Napoleonville, La., ranks among the national leaders in kills per game (6.29), hitting percentage and aces.
WAC Volleyball Tournament
University of Nevada, Reno
[Match 1] No. 1 Hawai'i (25-1, 13-0 ) vs. No. 8 Louisiana Tech (19-15, 4-9), noon
[Match 2] No. 4 San Jose State(13-14, 7-6) vs. No. 5 Rice (18-12, 8-5), 2 p.m.
[Match 3] No. 2 Fresno State (22-5, 10-3) vs. No. 7 SMU (12-16, 6-7), 5:30 p.m.
[Match 4] No. 3 Nevada (19-7, 8-5) vs. No. 6 UTEP (11-13, 6-7), 7:30 p.m.
[Match 5] Winner Match 1 vs. Winner Match 2, 5 p.m.
[Match 6] Winner Match 3 vs. Winner Match 4, 7 p.m.
[Match 7] Winner Match 5 vs. Winner Match 6, 1 p.m.