Rainbow Wahine open NCAA tournament play


HONOLULU — There’s no place like home for the University of Hawaii women’s volleyball team, and the Rainbow Wahine hope to take full advantage of that fact as they open NCAA Tournament play at the Stan Sheriff Center.

UH (24-4) plays host to surprise Big Sky Conference champion Idaho State (23-11) at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the second of two first-round matches. Brigham Young (22-6) will face Arizona State (19-13) in the first match at 5 p.m.

The Rainbow Wahine were awarded the tournament’s No. 11 overall seed and accompanying host bid after finishing the regular season with eight straight victories and ending up in a tie for first place in the Big West Conference with Cal State Northridge and Cal Santa Barbara.

Hawaii, ranked No. 11 in the AVCA Coaches Poll, received the No. 11 seed despite dropping six spots to No. 17 in the Ratings Percentage Index after sweeps at UC Riverside and Cal State Fullerton last weekend. By NCAA rule, the top 16 seeds are supposed to be offered an opportunity to host first- and second-round matches.

The winners of Friday’s matches will meet at 7 p.m. Saturday for the right to advance to next week’s regionals in Los Angeles.

Idaho State finished third in the Big Sky regular season standings but upset co-regular season champions North Dakota and Portland State in the conference tournament to win its first league title since 1990.

After a 6-6 start, the Bengals picked up steam in October and have been playing well the past month, winning nine of their past 10 matches. Their only loss during that stretch was a five-set defeat to Portland State on Nov. 23, which they avenged one week later by sweeping the Vikings for the conference championship.

Meanwhile, BYU comes in ranked No. 21 in the AVCA poll after pushing No. 9 San Diego to five sets before losing in the West Coast Conference finale last Saturday. The Cougars rank sixth in the nation in blocks per set at 2.98, led by freshman Whitney Young, who is sixth nationally among individuals at 1.55.

Arizona State counts upsets of No. 1 Texas and No. 25 Oregon among its 19 victories. Junior setter Shannan McCready is a 2011 Punahou School graduate from Aiea.

UH senior outside hitter Emily Hartong was named Big West Player of the Year and senior setter Mita Uiato, senior libero Ali Longo and freshman outside hitter Nikki Taylor also were named to the All-Big West first team on Monday.

Junior middle hitter Kalei Adolpho and sophomore middle blocker Jade Vorster received honorable mention, and Taylor was named to the All-Freshman Team.

Men’s basketball team hits the road

The UH men’s basketball team (5-2) embarks on its second road trip of the season this week, taking on Northern Arizona (2-6) at 2 p.m. Saturday in Flagstaff, Ariz.

The game will be broadcast live on radio on KKON.

The Rainbow Warriors rank No. 20 in the nation — among 345 NCAA Division I teams — in points per game at 86.9, are No. 16 in 3-point goal defense (25.2 percent) and are tied for 16th in rebounding margin (10.0).

Sophomore forward Isaac Fotu, the team’s leading rebounder at eight per game and second-leading scorer at 13.3 points per game, will make the road trip and is expected to play despite a fractured right (shooting) hand suffered in the Nov. 27 victory over New Orleans.