A preface from me:
Although .... for the moment ... Manu-Olevao has the edge at RS, as we've discussed before she will not being playing on Sundays due to her religious beliefs. That means she will sit out the San Diego match the first weekend and UC Riverside Sept. 29.
This is a personal decision by her and Shoji, while not happy as a coach, is impressed by her convictions and supports her decision. The team also is supportive and that should be all that matters.
On that note, any negative comments regarding one's religious choices — anyone's, not just the players — will continue to be deleted. I've dealt with enough vitriol and the season hasn't even started.
LAST IN A SERIES
By Ann Miller in 8-23 paper
Playing right side in volleyball — opposite the setter — is a little like playing the middle, without the need for skates to keep darting along the net.
The right-side hitter stays on the line and takes a full approach, but the priority is to take out the terminator on the other side and provide a few offensive fireworks. Final four teams nearly always have an imposing right side capable of multiple kills.
2013 RAINBOW WAHINE VOLLEYBALL
The right-side hitters
» Tai Manu-Olevao, 6-0, So.
» Kaela Goodman, 6-1, Sr.
» Nikki Taylor, 6-3, Fr.
» Ginger Long, 5-11, So.
Hawaii's only imposing right side is freshman Nikki Taylor, and she is third on the depth chart.
First up is Tai Manu-Olevao, an almost-as-inexperienced sophomore capable of scaling tall nets in a single bound. She could also start on the left side, which brings in senior Kaela Goodman — a designated blocker until now. Ginger Long, the most versatile of the bunch, is also in the mix.
What the Rainbow Wahine are looking for is an impact player, because to contend nationally, it is a necessity. They might settle for someone who can hit .300 and average a block and two or three kills a set. Passing is a bonus. They didn't come close to finding it last year.
Manu-Olevao was activated in the middle of her redshirt season when Jane Croson was suspended. Head coach Dave Shoji believes she can be a "shut-down" blocker, and her quickness and jumping ability give her an advantage over the others.
"She came in and gave us valuable minutes last year but she really wasn't ready," Shoji says. "She did amazingly well for the amount of reps she got and experience she has."
Shoji and associate coach Scott Wong say Manu-Olevao's progress has been dramatic. In contrast, Goodman's best qualities are her reliability and experience. She is also the only "natural right-sider" and has spent much of the last three seasons subbing in as a blocker, appearing in all but six matches on the right.
"She does a good job lining up on the hitter, a good job getting across the net," Wong says. "She doesn't jump through the roof, but she knows where to put her hands and the best place to put them is over the net."
Shoji says Taylor is "close to contributing" on the left and right. Her size sets her apart, but so does her inconsistency. Her passing, at this stage, is not good enough to keep her in all six rotations. Right side is her best shot.
After 20 practices in 10 days, Wong has seen a different person than the club player he watched the past four years.
"She is really internalizing what we're trying to change," Wong says. "Nikki is a bubbly, fun person and now she is in a different environment and buckling down. She has the perfect demeanor — being focused on everything — but I told her she needs to talk more and give her teammates feedback.
"She's got the height. It's just a matter of digesting everything we give her and seeing how consistent she can be."
Long offers the Wahine the most intriguing options. As a freshman, she was a hitter, defensive specialist and server. She is all that and more now, in part because she was so successful during the sand season.
"She is really athletic, but a little small," Wong says. "Beach volleyball gave her a lot of confidence. She's a different player. She's talking all the time, having a blast. She seems like a senior out there. She was one of our best beach players, had a lot of success and that gave her a little more of an edge to play off of. Her thing is she is good at almost everything. It's just a matter of being consistently good."