Wahine Volleyball: Coaches favor Hawaii

WAC coaches select Hawaii to edge Fresno State and win their ninth straight conference title.

DENVER, COLO. – Defending Western Athletic Conference volleyball champion Hawai‘i has been selected in a poll by the league's coaches to defend its crown in 2004 and take home its ninth-straight regular-season title.

In the closest vote since Hawai‘i edged San Jose State by nine votes in 2000, the Rainbow Wahine earned five first-place votes and tallied 74 points to top the poll. Fresno State finished in second place with 66 points and three first-place votes. Rice received 59 points and one first-place vote for third place. Nevada and SMU, last year's Eastern Division winner, tied for fourth with 58 points. In sixth place was San Jose State with 44 points, followed by Boise State (26), Louisiana Tech (24), Tulsa (24) and UTEP (18).

Hawai‘i is coming off a 36-2 season in 2003 that saw the Rainbow Wahine earn their eighth-consecutive WAC regular-season title with a 13-0 record. Hawai‘i also captured its fourth WAC Tournament title. The Rainow Wahine advanced to the NCAA Final Four before losing to Florida, 3-1. Head coach Dave Shoji will have to replace three All-Americans in Lily Kahumoku, Kim Willoughby and Lauren Duggins but does return AVCA National Freshman of the Year, Kanoe Kamana`o.

For the second-straight season, Fresno State finished second in the WAC's Western Division last season with a 10-3 mark and a 21-7 overall record. Eight letterwinners return for the Bulldogs, including four starters, and Honorable Mention All-American, Kristen Fenton.

Rice ended the 2003 season with a 9-4 WAC record in the Eastern Divison and an overall record of 19-10. This season, the Owls are led by first-year head coach Genny Volpe. Rice returns first-team all-WAC selection, Rebeca Pazo.

Nevada finished third in the Western Division last season with a 7-6 WAC mark and an overall record of 16-15. The Wolf Pack returns first-team all-WAC Salaia Salave`a and second-team selection Tristin Adams. SMU and WAC Coach of the Year Lisa Seifert ended last season with a 11-2 WAC record and an overall record of 23-7. The Mustangs return all-WAC selections Jessica Mihm, Beth Karasek, Kelly Larkan and Jacky Niederstadt.

This season, the WAC returns five first-team all-WAC performers from a year ago, including Hawai‘i's Kanoe Kamana`o, Fresno State's Kristen Fenton, Rice's Rebeca Pazo, SMU's Jessica Mihm and Nevada's Salaia Salave`a.

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