Rainbow Wahine volleyball team locked in for title run

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Rainbow Wahine volleyball team officially enters the postseason Friday night.

It's Hawaii's 32nd trip to the NCAA Tournament and they'll be looking to bring home the program's fifth national title.

The regular season has been a roller coaster for the team.

Behind head coach Dave Shoji's 1,107th win and an upset of then top-ranked Texas, Hawaii got to a fast start, but strayed a little in conference play.

Hawaii lost for the first time in 77 conference matches against UC-Santa Barbara and then suffered back-to-back road losses two weeks later.

The squad feels that rough patch has made them stronger.

"We've been playing the best we have all season, after those losses, and I think it was a huge eye-opener," said outside hitter Emily Hartong.  "Since it happened already, hopefully, it won't happen these next six games left."

The journey to a title starts with Idaho State.

The Big Sky champions have won nine of their last 11 matches.

Hawaii has taken eight straight, but Shoji says the Bengals are more than capable of an upset.

"They've got a six-four middle, and they got two pin players that really bring some heat, really good setter," Shoji said.  "They don't make mistakes and that's something that we gotta be aware of.  We've got to go out and beat them, they're not going to beat themselves."

It's the second time in three years UH has hosted.  Fans have been lining up for tickets since Tuesday, so lack of a home-court advantage won't be a problem.

"Anyone that's come to a game here knows how important the crowd is to us and how supportive the fans are," said Rainbow Wahine libero Ali Longo.  "I think it's definitely going to help, but, you're never guaranteed a win, whether you're home or on the road."

First serve is set to fly 7:30 Friday night.

If Hawaii wins, they'll face the winner of Arizona State-BYU Saturday.

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