It’s a season full of intrigue and intriguing plots.
Hawaii re-creates a popular reality show, calling it “No Fear Factor.” Among the 20 home matches, the Rainbow Wahine play host to five teams that finished last season in the Top 21 of the AVCA Coaches Poll, including defending NCAA champion Penn State, which kicks off the schedule Aug. 29.
Don’t miss “Family Ties” on Sept. 11 when St. Mary’s visits the Stan Sheriff Center. On the Gaels’ roster are Kapua Kamana’o (’Iolani), younger sister of former Wahine All-American Kanoe, and Chanteal Satele (Word of Life), daughter of Leeann Pestana Satele, a member of UH’s NCAA championship teams of 1982-83.
Several episodes have a “High School Reunion” theme as current Wahine stare through the net at former club and high school teammates. Tune in on Sept. 12 (Pacific) and Oct. 31 (Nevada).
Highlighting the “Must See VB” fall schedule is the WAC Tournament, Nov. 20-23. For the first time, the Western Athletic Conference teams will experience Wahine-Mania.
The only school with a 3-0 record against Hawaii looks poised to keep the mark perfect. The Nittany Lions (34-2) return all seven starters — including four All-Americans — from the team that won the NCAA championship last December.
It’s the first meeting between the Wahine and the Bobcats (26-6), the defending Mid-American champions. First-year head coach Ryan Theis has four starters among his 12 returning letterwinners.
The Bruins (23-11) make their annual trek across the Pacific under Andy Banachowski, the only women’s volleyball coach with 1,000 victories (1,060). All-America setter Nellie Spicer leads UCLA into its 66th meeting with Hawaii.
The former fraternity rivals at UC Santa Barbara are again across the net when Mike Hebert brings his Golden Gophers (18-13) to play Dave Shoji’s Wahine. Hebert, the former coach at Illinois, is one of three coaches to take two different programs to multiple final fours.
The former WAC member returns to Honolulu for the first time since 1996. The Cowgirls (12-14) are in a rebuilding mode under first-year coach Carrie Yerty, with only two returning starters, including setter Tasha Weishahn.
Hilo boy Reed Sunahara brings his Bearcats to the Sheriff Center for the second time in four seasons. Cincinnati (19-12) features freshman hitter Missy Harpenau, PrepVolleyball.com’s National Player of the Year in 2007, and 6-foot-4 Fab 50 freshman middle Kelsey Brandl.
Deja vu time for Wahine fans. Setting for the Gaels 15-13) is sophomore Kapua Kamana’o (’Iolani), younger sister of UH career assist leader Kanoe. Also returning home are freshman hitter Chanteal Satele (Word of Life) and junior middle Megan Burton (Iolani).
The homecoming weekend continues with a visit from the Tigers (18-9), coached by Charlie Wade (see Biggest Hits at right). Three isle products return home in Kamehameha’s Bekah Torres and Dancyne Kama, and Punahou’s Carly Hiromoto.
Woof. The Huskies (27-4) have become big dogs in the Pac-10 under Jim McLaughlin. UW’s defense is anchored by All-American libero Tamari Miyashiro (see Biggest Hits at right) and All-America middle Jessica Swarbrick.
Idaho (*Repeats 11/8)
The Vandals (13-17, 9-7) should continue to improve, getting immediate help from freshman hitter Cassie Hamilton. Continuing her assault on the Idaho record book is All-WAC senior hitter Haley Larsen.
Boise State (*Repeats 11/6)
The Broncos (6-23, 2-14) bring in five freshmen who could play key roles, led by late signee Kaycee Gow, a 6-foot middle. No Sister Act this season. Boise State middle Robyn Hewitt, sister of Wahine freshman Brittany, has completed her eligibility.
Louisiana Tech (*Repeat of 9/25)
Former Tulsa coach Matt Sonnichsen returns to the WAC with the Lady Techsters (6-24, 1-15). He’s been able to turn around programs before, and bringing in 6-3 freshman middle Natasha Kolunija from Serbia is a start.
New Mexico State (*Repeat of 9/27)
If the Aggies (26-6, 14-2) are going to replace the Wahine as WAC champions, this could be the year. Back are five starters, including four Preseason All-WAC selections: Krystal Torres, Amber Simpson and Lindsey Yon, all seniors, and junior Krista Altermatt.
San Jose State (*Repeat of 9/29)
Second-year coach Oscar Crespo has depth and height with Nevada Union teammates Sarah McAtee (6-0 OH) and Kylie Miraldi (6-1 MB). The Spartans (17-13, 11-5) return junior DS Kristal Tsukano (Kamehameha ‘06) and sophomore OH Brianna Amian (Moanalua ‘07).
Fresno State (*Repeats 11/10)
Former Nevada All-Big West OH Lauren Netherby-Sewell looks to resuscitate the Bulldogs (5-26, 3-13). The cavernous Save Mart Center (15,956) will be partitioned off to create a “more intimate setting. Fresno State drew a total of 1,099 to 13 home matches last year.
Nevada (*Repeat of 10/18)
The Wolf Pack (16-11, 10-6) return sophomore Lindsay Baldwin, the WAC’s top blocker. Lone senior Allison Hernandez moves from libero to OH. Setter Tatiana Santiago (Kamehameha ‘08) and sophomore OH Kylie Harrington (St. Francis ‘07) are contenders to start.
Utah State (*Repeat of 10/16)
Ex-Aggie coach Tom Peterson, who won men’s titles at Penn State and BYU, is new assistant for WAC Coach of the Year Grayson DuBois. Roster headlined by WAC Freshman of ‘07 Chelsea Fowles, who led USU (17-13, 11-5) to a stunning upset of Hawaii last year.
Utah Valley state
The conference-less Wolverines (21-10) are coming off their second Division I Independent Championship in three seasons. Utah Valley coach Sam Atoa returns eight letterwinners, including Independent Freshman of the Year Kayli Broadbrent, a 6-foot middle/hitter.
Cal Poly (*Repeats 11/28)
The Mustangs (23-8), two-time defending Big West champions, return two All-America seniors in middle Jaclyn Houston and opposite Kylie Atherstone. Atherstone had 23 kills when Cal Poly upset Hawaii in five in 2006.
* indicates dates of road matches