In his previous 41 years at the helm of the Rainbow Wahine volleyball program, Dave Shoji had never missed a training camp. But you'll have to excuse the Hall of Fame coach for missing it in his 42nd year as he went to Rio de Janeiro to watch his sons win an Olympic bronze medal in men's volleyball.
"It might have been the best 17 days. It was a heck of a road trip," Shoji said. "Every minute of it was just amazing. I can't even describe the Olympics."
Up for 18 hours nearly everyday, sleep fell by the wayside in order to get the full Olympic experience.
"There was so much energy in the city," Shoji said. "The men's volleyball team played every other day, so we went to see other events, we did some sightseeing too. I just can't even describe how Rio was. It was amazing."
Wednesday afternoon it was back to work for Shoji who attended Rainbow Wahine practice for the first time this season, and didn't skip a beat.
"My staff has done a wonderful job. I've been in touch with them every single day, twice a day," said Shoji. "From things that I'm hearing, things have been super good, they've handled it. The players have responded, they're working very hard. We have a few injuries, but we're going to do the best we can this weekend."
Two of the injuries are to key players. Senior middle blocker Annie Mitchem underwent surgery on her left pinkie finger after breaking it early in camp and is expected to be out for six weeks. All-American opposite hitter Nikki Taylor dislocated her left elbow diving for a ball in Saturday's scrimmage and her timeline is week-to-week.
Shoji knew the reigning Big West Player of the Year had tweaked her arm, but didn't find out she was going to miss the opening weekend until Tuesday night.
"That was disappointing," Shoji said. "We've got a lot of work to do in practice the next two days, but the players are all very optimistic, so we'll just see how things go."
The #6 Rainbow Wahine host #4 Wisconsin Friday night at 7 pm at the Stan Sheriff Center. UH will then host Kansas State on Saturday and Arizona on Sunday to conclude the Chevron Rainbow Wahine Invitational.
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