#BWCWarmUp Fall Preview - Hawai'i
BigWest.org chatted with Hawai‘i head coaches Michelle Nagamine (women's soccer) and Dave Shoji (women's volleyball) to preview the upcoming 2014 season.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH IN 2014
Berger in the Back: As a freshman, goalkeeper Monk Berger posted a 1.00 goals against average in 2013, the fourth-best mark in the league en route to breaking Hawaii’s program record for shutouts in a single season with seven. Head Coach Michelle Nagamine shared that Berger returned for her sophomore season with a poised demeanor and a new intensity that will strengthen the backline for the Rainbow
Fight For Fourth: Hawai‘i finished fifth in league a season ago, having improved upon their sixth place record from UH’s inaugural season in the Big West in 2012. If Hawai‘i can continue the trend of finishing a spot higher than the previous year in league, look to see UH in the Big West Tournament this fall in San Luis Obispo.
Open Offense: After Tiana Fujimoto sustained an injury that will keep her from seeing the pitch this fall, UH looks to its offense to step in and score goals. Fujimoto led the Rainbow Wahine with 10 goals in 2013, the second-best total in the league. Four other UH players found the back of the net for a collective total of seven goals.
Pace is Power: The Rainbow Wahine look to work on composure heading into the season. Known for a fast-paced style of play, Coach Nagamine stressed the importance of slowing the game a bit and identifying options. The players will work on reading the field patiently as opposed to taking the first open opportunity, something that will come with time for the young squad.
Double Trouble: Sisters Kama and Krystal Pascua will be great offensive threats for the Rainbow Wahine due to the duo’s impressive range. With the ability to score from the inside and the outside, their technicality will be something to watch. The sisters combined for four goals and six assists in 2013 and are expected to play a big role in the offensive attack this season.
QUOTABLES – MICHELLE NAGAMINE
(On preseason activity): “We came up with three core values that everyone agreed summed up the Rainbow Wahine. The first one was ‘Ohana,’ which means family. The second one was ‘determined’ and the third was ‘protective.’”
(On team chemistry): “Our team as a whole is in such a good place. It’s very rare that you find a group of kids with no drama. This group is a quiet intensity.”
(On Monk Berger): “This year, Monk has come back with a very calm demeanor and a very intense and focused demeanor at practice. You can tell that just from last year to this year there’s a lot of maturing that’s been done.”
(On third year in the conference): “I’m really proud that we’re a part of the Big West because I think everybody has a quality program and all of the coaches are doing a really good job of keeping each other on their toes.”
(On family mentality): “We have a melting pot of cultures here. Some kids grew up here [on the island], some kids grew up on the mainland, so we respect each other’s differences and protect our family. Everyone matters.”
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
0 Number of seniors on this year’s roster
4 All-Conference players to return are Lidia Battaglia, Monk Berger, Kama Pascua and Krystal Pascua
5 The Rainbow Wahine’s best finish in league since joining the Big West in 2012
7 Single-season program record for shutouts by freshman Monk Berger in 2013
18 Total returning letterwinners from last year’s team
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH IN 2014
Roster Depleted in Offseason: Hawai’i may be entering 2014 as the preseason favorite, according to the Big West coaches poll, but this year may pose more of a challenge than previous years. In order to keep their 19-consecutive conference titles intact, the Rainbow Wahine need to fill the void of four All-Big West members lost in the offseason, including two-time Big West Player of the Year and All-American Emily Hartong. The outside hitter tallied a conference-best 507 kills, while averaging the nation’s seventh-best kills per set average of 4.69. The setter position is also open for Hawai’i following the graduation of Mita Uiato, a common trend we are seeing with many Big West schools this year. Uiato paced the league with an 11.11 assist average a year ago.
Dandy Of A Recruiting Class: With the loss of such a talented quartet of players, the Rainbow Wahine will definitely benefit from the 12th-best recruiting class in 2014, according to PrepVolleyball. The freshmen class includes Kalei Greeley, Savanah Kahakai, Emily Maglio, and Megan Huff. Greeley was named 2012 CIF Southern Section Division II Player of the Year and was ranked No. 35 on PrepVolleyball.com’s Senior Aces list and Huff helped her PSVBA squad win gold in the Patriot Division of the 2013 Girls Junior National Championships. Joining the diaper dandies is junior transfer Olivia Magill, a two-year starter at middle blocker for the University of Arizona who led the Wildcats with 119 total blocks and a .335 hitting percentage while registering 202 kills in 2013. Head Coach Dave Shoji commented about her range and ability to block and feels she may be the biggest addition to the team.
Sophomore Standout: Headlining the 2014 Hawai’i roster is outside hitter Nikki Taylor, who made an immediate impact on the team with selections to both the All-Big West First Team and All-Freshman Team in 2013. The Honolulu native finished her freshman campaign ranked second on the team with 284 kills and a .287 attack percentage, which ranked ninth in the conference. She also tallied 81 total blocks and a 2.70 kills per set average. Taylor was the focal point of UH’s attack in the spring and will be looked upon to pace the offense and take a lot of swings this year.
Preseason Love: Along with being tabbed the preseason favorite in the Big West coaches poll, the Rainbow Wahine, led by the NCAA Division I wins leader Head Coach Dave Shoji (1,128), are ranked 17th in the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) preseason Top 25 poll. Hawai’i is the lone Big West team represented in the top 25, while a trio of teams were listed in the ‘others’ receiving votes category. Hawai’i, who led the league in four statistical categories - hitting percentage (.278), kills (14.44), assists (13.44) and opponent hitting percentage (.171), concluded the 2013 season ranked 18th after advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Home Court Advantage: The Rainbow Wahine are hosting a bevy of preseason tournaments, bumping their home contest tally to a conference-high 20. Included in the mix are match-ups against a trio of 2013 NCAA Tournament participants with Ohio, Oregon and UCLA making their way to the Stan Sheriff Center. Hawai’i was nearly unbeatable at home with a 16-3 mark in 2013. The home court dominance is even more impressive when looking at conference-only contests. UH hadn’t sustained a conference loss at home since the 2008 season, before UC Santa Barbara pulled off a 3-2 victory in Honolulu on Oct. 11, 2013. It’s worth mentioning that Hawai’i has sold more season tickets this year than last year so the roar of the crowd just got louder.
QUOTABLES – DAVE SHOJI
(On the loss of four star players during the offseason): “We are going to be very challenged this year, not only in the Big West but within ourselves. We need to have people get better or have the newcomers step in and play at a high level right away and we are confident that we can do this. There will be a combination of new players and old players and I think we have some weapons so I am confident that we can still win the Big West.”
(On up-and-coming players): “No question Olivia (Magill) will be a big part of our team this year. She started two years at Arizona and has some great athletic ability and it is only a matter of time before she learns our system and becomes part of the offense. Tai Manu-Olevao has been a part-time starter for two years and we are counting on her to win a spot and be a solid player for us. She really needs to have a good year for us to do well. We groomed Tayler Higgins to be the starting setter this year. She has had a year under her belt and I think she is going to be a tremendous setter. She should be able to step right in and replace Mita Uiato this year.”
(On the hometown fan support): “I think our crowd is volleyball savvy, they understand the game. They appreciate good plays, whether it’s us or the opponent. It isn’t what you call a hostile crowd but certainly they cheer very loudly for us, the home team. It’s not like some arenas where there is a lot of negativity towards other teams. They appreciate good volleyball and I think that is what we are known for. They love volleyball here in Hawai’i so they support us very well.”
(On thoughts of being back in the Big West): “It was really nice to get back to some of the campuses that we used to be at with the towns and gyms being familiar. Feels like we have gone full circle, come home sort of speaking. The fans at these schools are also very knowledgeable and they love volleyball on the west coast so it’s been nice to come back to the Big West.”
(On competition in the Big West): “I think the league is way stronger than where we came from, top to bottom. Just about every night you have to battle and play your best to win. It is good for us to have balance in the league where we really have to play hard every night. That has been good for us to understand and know that our players have to be prepared all the time.”
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
.278 UH’s conference-leading hitting percentage in 2013, which ranked 13th in the country and was the highest in the league since 2005
7 Conference wins needed for Head Coach Dave Shoji to become just the fourth coach to collect 200 Big West wins
10 Underclassmen on the 2014 Hawai’i roster
19 Consecutive conference titles earned after sharing the 2013 crown with CSUN and UC Santa Barbara. Hawai’i, which captured the 1995 Big West crown, competed in the Western Athletic Conference from 1996-2011 and won the championship all 16 years
32 Appearances in the NCAA Tournament