The Rainbow Wahine look ahead to Washington in the second round of the NCAA Tournament following a victory over Western Kentucky Thursday.
Western Kentucky hangs tough,
but mistakes give Hawaii victory
Thursday, Dec. 5, 2002
By Paul Honda
HONOLULU -- Most of the time, the post-game conference for the Rainbow Wahine Thursday night was, well, tense.
After a 30-18, 30-25, 30-21 win over Western Kentucky, there was a definite uneasiness and quiet in the air. Leave it to setter Margaret Vakasausau to cut the silent moments with candor. "Gee, it's so quiet in here! Come on, we just won," the effervescent senior said.
The Rainbow Wahine, 31-1 and ranked second in the nation, meet Washington Friday night in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Hawaii is seeded sixth in the tourney.
Western Kentucky, a young squad, finished the season 33-5. Crystal Towler (12 kills, .333) and Amanda Schiff (11 kills, .250) paced the Lady Toppers, who played before their largest audience of the season. Stan Sheriff Center was more than half-filled with 6,055 fans.
Mistakes cost the Toppers dearly. "The thing we pride ourselves in is handling the ball well on first contacts – serving and serve-receive," WKU coach Travis Hudson said. "In games two and three, I felt, if you take those mistakes out -- the service errors and the reception errors, poor passes where we didn't really give ourselves a chance offensively -- the margin of error is so slim when you're playing a team of Hawaii's caliber. You can't afford to throw five or six of those in during a game and be successful."
Lily Kahumoku and Kim Willoughby powered Hawaii, while Maja Gustin and Lauren Duggins provided ample support. Kahumoku tallied a match-high 17 kills and had eight digs. Willoughby had 11 kills, four aces and seven digs. Gustin hit .562 (nine kills) with a match-high six blocks. Duggins pounded eight kills (.571) with five digs.
Hawaii dominated at the net with 13.5 blocks. WKU had just two. Hawaii also hit .327 overall, limiting the Lady Toppers to .106. "We weren't doing our jobs individually," senior setter Sara Noe said. "Things that we knew we should be doing. We were making mistakes, giving them points."
The visiting ‘Toppers started strong, taking a 6-1 lead thanks to four hitting errors by Hawaii. The Wahine opened the match in a slightly different formation, coach Dave Shoji said. "It was a tactical decision, and I'll leave it at that," he said.
Sparked by two of Willoughby's aces, Hawaii went on a roll. The Wahine went on a 17-4 run and never looked back to win game one.
The Rainbow Wahine never trailed in set two, but the Lady Toppers remained close all the way. WKU never trailed by more than five points, and got as close as 22-20 on Amanda Cecil's kill. However, Shoji called time out, and WKU committed five errors. The last error, by Cecil, gave Hawaii the set.
The ‘Toppers remained competitive in set three, but errors did them in again. With the score 7-all, two errors by WKU helped Hawaii push ahead. Hawaii opened a 16-10 lead on one of Kahumoku's 17 kills. WKU got no closer than four the rest of the way.
Post-Game Press Conference Notes
Eight of the 11 players on WKU's roster are freshmen or sophomores. That gave Hudson some consolation, but not a whole lot of satisfaction. "I know there'