By Cindy Luis
Someone asked about Kawamura. I agree with the rating that she is the second libero and has a great serve. and I like Long listed as a DS. IMHO she would make a great libero, however she has a cannon of an arm and is a real threat from the 3-meter.
someone asked about my comment of her being undersized. She is listed at 5-11. That may be a little generous.. and if she is playing right side, she'll be going up against the other team's top hitter (traditionally). The block needs to be bigon that side. She does jump well and is a smart player.
From Ann Miller today 8-20
THIRD IN A FIVE-PART SERIES
Hawaii's volleyball history is littered with players flying all over the court to extend rallies and frustrate opponents. This season, expect Ali Longo to get the most frequent-flier miles, with a bunch of smurfs flying short routes to very specific areas around her.
Longo, one of the Rainbow Wahine's seven seniors, has owned the libero position seemingly from the moment she transfered from Penn State last year. She brought great range and even greater presence to a team in dire need of someone willing to speak up. UH coach Dave Shoji welcomed her with open arms and ears, aside from a few periods of inconsistent passing.
That position is hers again this year, with little Kayla Kawamura also expected to see some time. The rest of the defensive specialists will get a shot at a few back-row rotations replacing the right-side hitter. They are a diverse group bearing very different gifts.
If the left-side hitters pass well, Shoji might inject offense into the back row with a hitter like Ginger Long.
If the passers are erratic, someone like Sarah Mendoza, whom Shoji calls the "best pure passer on the team," might enter.
Freshman setter Tayler Higgins is an option because of her defense and ability to turn an "off play" into instant offense.
If Shoji is looking purely for defense, senior Courtney Lelepali, freshman Katiana Ponce or pretty much anyone on the "smurf" squad is an option.
If he is surfing for a server, Kawamura, with her "low, flat floater," comes to mind.
There is no depth chart at DS. Shoji is simply waiting to see who is most memorable before the Aug. 30 opener against top-ranked Texas.
"I just would like someone to show us that this is more worthwhile — whatever her strength is," he says. "Someone needs to step up and say ‘I want to play that right back (position)', whether it's a hitter, backup setter or DS. It could be who has the best serve and can score points. They need to step up and show us what they can do."
Longo showed him about the time she entered the Stan Sheriff Center for the first time last summer. By the end of the season, she was basically coaching the back row.
"She has good technique. She's very, very aggressive, so she takes more than her share, which we want her to do," Shoji says. "We encourage her to take as much court as she can."
That is pretty much everything from 18 feet on in on the left side. Her range is dramatically better than others and her fearless attitude can't be taught.
"She's just a tough kid, doesn't want to lose," Shoji says. "She's not afraid to voice her opinion. She has pretty much taken charge of the defense and directing traffic. She's so experienced. She knows where to go and seems to always be in the right spot."
Kawamura will back her up because of that serve — which pushes passers back and off-balance — and her ability to transform loud spikes into soft popups to the setter.
"She can dig the ball," Shoji says simply. "She can take a hard-hit ball and put it up very nicely."
Lelepali played all three back-row positions (left, middle and right) last year. Her confidence and demeanor are major attributes, but Shoji is looking for more consistency.
That is a consistent theme. Mendoza doesn't always move fast enough. Ponce, a hitter in high school, has made great strides but needs to make more to catch up. Long is under-sized in the front, but would give Hawaii another weapon in the back. Higgins might simply be too valuable to keep off the court.
What Shoji is looking for is something — make that someone — extraordinary.
"They've got to make more than the ordinary play," he emphasizes. "Anybody can make the ordinary play. They've got to make all the ordinary plays and they've got to make a few exceptional plays to help the team."