Breakdown on the DSs

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


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.”


  1. Cubicle1126 August 20, 2013 2:09 pm

    There’s been a lot of talk about Higgins’ serve. It may be too good to keep off the court.

    I honestly don’t remember a lot of Kawamura’s playing time last season. If she’s risen to #2 on the depth chart for libero, then it seems like she’s made tremendous strikes, to overtake Lelepali, who many of us presumed would step into the “Maeda” role.

  2. Dedicatedfan August 20, 2013 2:23 pm

    Kawamura has not overtaken Lelepali, she backs up Longo, as a Libero. Lelepali is in a fight with Mendoza, Long, Ponce, and Higgins, for the Defensive Specialist position. The position Maeda played last year.

  3. Cubicle1126 August 20, 2013 2:39 pm

    well, maeda was also the #2 libero last year. if that patterns hold true, then kawamura would be the first off the bench.

  4. Dedicatedfan August 20, 2013 3:00 pm

    3. If you look at it that way, then Yes, Kawamura would be the first off the bench, as you say.

  5. Cindy Luis August 20, 2013 4:30 pm

    You can also look at Higgins as being a DS but the secondary setter, even if they aren’t running a true 6-2. Higgins isn’t training to be a DS but she’s on the depth chart there for that reason.

  6. Pudundo August 20, 2013 6:22 pm

    Cindy, when will the Wahine Roster be updated with pictures? And thanks for the article post & insight!!

  7. Lina August 20, 2013 7:55 pm

    Hawaii is so lucky to have Longo. That position is soo crucial to any team, and last year she proved how weak in comparison every single one of Hawaii’s past Liberos have been. I know bold statement, but true IMO she has risen the standard and redefined the role that position plays into the Wahine volleyball team. Too bad she didn’t transfer in during the 2011 season, as they would have probably been able to go all the way.

    Anyway, what worries me is how the coaches will try to fill her shoes next year!

  8. Warriorfan August 20, 2013 10:18 pm

    Maybe by post season it will be Higgins setting and Uiato in as Serving sub/DS/Secondary setter like Steph Brandt used to be.

  9. surfboy August 20, 2013 11:12 pm

    Stephanie Brandt was an exceptional digger when in the DS role…..kinda tough to beat…remember her making some extraordinary plays.

  10. setaone August 21, 2013 5:33 am

    In today’s SA, Croson to play this year.

  11. Hot August 21, 2013 7:28 am

    6. Longo is good, but please. I think Melissa Villaroman and Hedder Ilustre were better, and Ashley Watanabe was a better defensive player. IMO, nothing about Longo makes the previous liberos look “weak.” She had several stretches of inconsistent performances last season after an impressive preseason.

  12. Beauston August 21, 2013 7:29 am

    The team has moved on past the Croson issue and is focus and determined to take this season for as long as they can as one team. Evidently, a much more cohesive team than last year with Croson in it.
    Not surprise shes granted the release. Based on Shoji’s feedbacks on this year’s Wahine squad, he’s confident enough that theyre better off without her.
    I cant wait for them to show her whats up at SSC.
    Let the games begin!!!!

  13. setaone August 21, 2013 7:47 am

    Although she wasn’t a Libero, cannot forget Nalani Yamashita. She was a huge part in the 95-96 squads.

    Villaroman and Illustre were great, but they had each other to compliment, along with Willoughby and Kahumoku.

  14. Warriorfan August 21, 2013 8:43 am

    10. What matters most is she plays her absolute best when the competition is the best. It’s hard to get up against weak big west teams.

    I’ve noticed in big matches Longo’s serve, it’s like she has ice in her veins, she serves tough and is consistent in getting UH points on her serve.

  15. mei mei August 21, 2013 9:13 am

    Great move for Coach Shoji ! shows that he was more concerned about the player (Croson) & her development/future.

    I know the wahine will still kick some butt against them!

  16. Dedicatedfan August 21, 2013 9:25 am

    The mark of an excellent libero, or DS, is when they can receive a serve, or a hit, and put the ball up so that the setter does not have to move, or move much. If the setter is running all over the court, to track down balls, the libero, or DS, is really not during her job.

    If an outsider hitter receives a serve, or spike, and does not put up a ball directly to the setter, that can be expected, but if she does, it is just bonus.

  17. Dedicatedfan August 21, 2013 9:34 am

    10. Hey Hot, if Ashley Watanabe did not get hurt during practice prior to the NCAA Tournament, it is my opinion, the Wahines had a good shot at winning the National Championship, that year. Without her, they were kind of lost back there.

  18. jcvolcano August 21, 2013 12:03 pm

    My apologies for breaking the thread. Since Croson was mentioned…..I have a question. Why did coach
    Shoji start Croson at UC Santa Barbara? The wahines went several matches unbeaten during Croson’s
    suspension. Kastl, Goodman, Tuaniga, Olevao stepped up and played inspired ball, along with the rest
    of the wahines. It was great to see this unit come together as a team as each match was won. A 5 setter
    win over Pacific, a 4 set win over LBSTU, another 5 set win over UC Irvine. Suddenly Crosons back and
    starts. Kastl, Goodman, Tuaniga, Olevao return to the bench. Every coach,with a contending team, works to peak his/her team, at seasons end, ready for post-season play. I am sure that coach Shoji’s decision to
    start Croson at UC Barbara adversely affected the wahines cohesiveness and spirit. Coach Shoji could have
    easily worked Croson back into the lineup and have her “earn her position back”, as he often likes to profess. The wahines would have accepted this as fair.
    Instead Croson gets a pass, and wahine unity gets the bench. It is my opinion the wahines lost to Wahington,
    a team they could have beaten, on November 1, 2012 at UC Irvine.
    Croson is gone. The wahines of 2013 are back, and for the better. They are bonded by the adversities of
    2012, and the memories of the Pacific, LBSU, and UC Irvine, their hard fought victories. The wahines are
    again a Ohana, a force that is not easily conquered.

  19. surfboy August 21, 2013 1:39 pm

    IMHO I agree that since Ali Longo came to UH she did bring something different that past L/DS’ s did not have. Ali Longo is tops in my book on UH defensive players.

  20. Msrpantoja1@Huh.'A'loha August 21, 2013 3:48 pm

    2012 Record:29-4
    2012 Postseason: NCAA Champions
    Head Coach: Jerritt Elliott (345-91; 13 years)
    Key Returners: Hannah Allison (Sr., S), Khat Bell (Jr., MB/OH), Kat Brooks (So., L), Nicole Dalton (So., OH/S), Haley Eckerman (Jr., OH), Molly McCage (So., MB), Sarah Palmer (Sr., L), Bailey Webster (Sr., OH)
    Key Losses: Sha’Dare McNeal (OH)
    Key Newcomers: Tiffany Baker (Jr., OH), Chloe Collins (Fr., S), Pilar Victoria Lopez (Fr., OH), Chiaka Ogbogu (Fr., MB)

    Notes on Texas: Back-to-back national titles aren’t out of the question for this veteran Texas squad. Experienced at every position, the Longhorns return eight key contributors and add the fifth-ranked recruiting class. The Longhorns return First Team All-American outsides Webster (435k, 63d, 89b) and Eckerman (504k, 234d, 47b) to lead the offense. The loss of Honorable Mention All-American McNeal is a setback that will need to be accounted for, but Honorable Mention All-American Bell (216k, 142b) is back as a dominant net force along with her middle-blocking counterpart McCage (119k, 103b). Also back are setter Allison (1186a) and all-around standout Dalton (35k, 171a, 184d, 32b), while Palmer (403d) and Brooks (112d) return to the back row. With such an experienced, deep roster, this season should be one where “Don’t mess with Texas” becomes more than a cliché.

    Coach Elliott on the schedule: “The Texas staff is not afraid to challenge our program early in the season. We will have the toughest preseason schedule in the country with Hawaii, San Diego, Penn State, Stanford, Arizona State, Illinois, and Nebraska. We will be a battle-tested team heading into tough Big 12 Conference play as we prepare to defend our Big 12 Championship.”

    How Sweet It Is: Texas has reached at least the round of 16 every year since 2006.

    2012 Record: 23-8
    2012 Postseason: NCAA Second Round
    Head Coach: Michael Sealy (75-23; 4 years)
    Key Returners: Kelly Reeves (Sr., OH), Megan Moenoa (Jr., S), Mariana Aquino (Sr., MB), Zoë Nightingale (Jr., MB), Meg Norton (Sr., DS/L), Karsta Lowe (Jr., OH)
    Key Losses: Tabi Love (OH), Bojana Todorovic (L/OH), Rachael Kidder (OH), Becca Strehlow (S)
    Key Newcomers: Haley Lawless (RS Fr., OH), Skylar Dykstra (Fr., L), Claire Felix (Fr., MB), Jennie Frager (Fr., MB), Jordan Robbins (Fr., S)

    Notes on UCLA: The Bruins have the components to be a stand-out squad this season if players can step up or step into new roles and gel as a group. Six starters return, but the Bruin’s lose their All-American offensive leaders from last season’s 23-8 squad: Love (First Team, 505k, 92d, 64b) and Kidder (Honorable Mention, 438k, 153d, 43b). Nightingale (164k, 152b) and Aquino (110k, 96b) return their blocking prowess to the net, while Lowe (170k, 38d, 39b) and Reeves (150k, 276d, 37b) add experience to the Bruin offense. Norton (210d) along with’s top-ranked incoming libero Dykstra should hold down UCLA’s back court.

    Coach Sealy on the team: “I’m excited about the upcoming season. There are a lot of question marks and a lot of great pieces to put in place, and it will be interesting to see how those pieces are going to fit. I would like to see us compete day in and day out in practice and night in and night out during matches to be as great as we can be, and I would consider that a success.”

    Trifecta: Michael Sealy has collected three NCAA Championship titles with the UCLA Bruins: as a player in 1993, a men’s assistant coach in 2006, and the women’s head coach in 2011.

    (By way of –LONG BEACH STATE–)
    2012 Record: 22-11
    2012 Postseason: NCAA Regional Semifinals
    Head Coach: Craig Skinner (180-76; 8 years)
    Key Returners: Whitney Billings (Sr., OH), Jessi Greenberg (Sr., DS/L), Alexandra Morgan (Sr., MB), Jackie Napper (Jr., DS/L), Lauren O’Conner (Jr., OH), Sara Schwarzwalder (So., MB), Morgan Bergren (So., S)
    Key Losses: Ashley Frazier (OH), Christine Hartmann (S), Stephanie Klefot (DS/L)
    Key Newcomers: Sharay Barnes (Fr., OH/MB), Emily Franklin (Fr., MB), Anni Thomasson (Fr., OH), Kelsey Wolf (RS Fr., DS/L)
    Notes on Kentucky: The Wildcats return six starters from last season’s NCAA Regional Semifinalist squad, including Second Team All-American Billings (365k, 335d, 96b). Morgan (283k, 132b), O’Conner (321k, 73d, 62b), and Schwarzwalder (149k, 86b) return, adding more experience and production to the offense, and Bergren will likely be called on to replace Honorable Mention All-Americans setter Hartmann (1202a). Gone are SEC Libero of the Year/Honorable Mention All-American Klefot (481d) and offensive weapon Frazier (357k, 97d, 51b), but Napper (273d) returns to defend the back court. The Wildcats also add the No. 24-ranked recruiting class to the mix, giving them a powerful combination of options and experience.

    Coach Skinner on the schedule: “This year’s schedule was designed to challenge us early so we can be our best by the end of the season. We will have several opportunities to compete and win against great teams both in pre-conference and within the SEC.”

    The Skinny On Skinner: Since being named head coach in December of 2004, Craig Skinner has led the Wildcats to the NCAA tourney each of the last eight years. Kentucky had endured consecutive losing seasons in the five years prior to his hire. A new six-year contract will keep Skinner at Kentucky through at least 2019.

    2012 Record: 28-4
    2012 Postseason: NCAA Second Round
    Head Coach: Chris Poole (680-264; 26 years)
    Key Returners: Olivera Medic (Sr., OH), Katie Mosher (RS Jr., L/DS), Ashley Neff (Sr., MB), Sarah Wickstrom (Jr., S), Nicole Walch (So., OH)
    Key Losses: Fatma Yildirim (OH), Sareea Freeman (MB), Duygu Duzceler (S)
    Key Newcomers: Sarah Burrington (RS Fr., MB), Izzy Carmona (Fr., Opp.), Hailey Luke (Fr., S), Leah Mikesky (RS Fr., OH)

    Notes on Florida State: Florida State has three huge holes to fill after the departure of Honorable Mention All-Americans Yildirim (324k, 308d, 44b) and Freeman (268k, 111b) and setter Duzceler (682a) who leaves the lineup after co-setting her team to a .276 hitting percentage. Her counterpart Wickstrom (639a) returns to run the offense. Third Team All-American Medic (266k, 337d, 43b) and Neff (248k, 184b) give the Seminoles a pair of offensive weapons to build around, while Mosher (495d) is back to ground the defense. Sophomore outside Walch showed her potential this spring and could be called on to step up and contend for a starting role this fall.

    Coach Poole on the team: “Our team has a lot of potential this season. We had a couple of injuries to key players last year that limited us at times, and we didn’t reach our fullest potential. Anytime you have injuries, it throws off your depth during the season. I’m very excited about this team and believe we should again compete for an ACC Championship and Top-15 Ranking.”

    Sister, Sister: The Seminoles carry two pairs of siblings on their roster this season. Twins Caroline and Laura Dadowski are sophomore defensive specialists and Elise Walch is a senior opposite and her younger sister Nicole is an outside.

    Of course, UH making much ‘NOISE’ hopefully.

    2012 Record: 27-3
    2012 Postseason: NCAA Second Round
    Head Coach: Dave Shoji (1103-184-1; 38 years)
    Key Returners: Emily Hartong (Sr., OH), Jade Vorster (So., MB), Kalei Adolpho (Jr., MB), Ashley Kastl (Sr., OH), Mita Uiato (Sr., S), Ali Longo (Sr., L/DS)
    Key Losses: Emily Maeda (L/DS), Jane Croson (OH)
    Key Newcomers: Kyra Goodman (Fr., S), Tayler Higgins (Fr., S), Nikki Taylor (Fr., OH), Katiana Ponce (Fr., L/DS), Keani Passi (So., OH)

    Notes on Hawaii: Hawaii returns all but two players from last season’s NCAA Second Round squad, including two All-Americans: outside Hartong (First Team, 527k, 265d, 76b) and setter Uiato (Honorable Mention, 1180a). Longo (385d) returns to pick up anything that sneaks past the sizeable block of Vorster (226k, 116b) and Adolpho (161k, 101b), while Kastl (158k, 123d, 40b) returns as another veteran attack option. The loss of Croson (319k, 219d, 28b) needs to be contended with, but Hawaii brings in the No. 26-ranked recruiting class to add talent and depth to the roster.

    Coach Shoji on the team: “We have a veteran squad with seven seniors and experience at every position. We also have good developing players and an overall well-rounded team with depth at every position.”

    All Tied Up: Hawaii’s one recorded tie came in 1978 against Long Beach State when pool-play matches were two sets regardless of whether or not a winner was determined (Hawaii and Long Beach State each took a set).


  21. Purple&Gold August 21, 2013 3:53 pm

    Da two most closely resembled programs/fans *throughout UH’s entire existence*, IMO..

  22. Cindy Luis August 21, 2013 3:56 pm

    7. don’t see Higgins replacing Uiato at setter this year but expect her to get plenty of playing time either in a 6-3 or Serving sub where she has the ability to take that second ball and set it.

    16. Agree if Watanabe hadn’t been hurt during the 04 tournament it could have been a different outcome. they probably beat Wisconsin. but Prince also was weakened by strep throat. Don’t know if they would have beaten Stanford, which went on to the national title.

  23. Cindy Luis August 21, 2013 4:01 pm

    he started Croson vs. UCSB because she had done all that was asked of her to return to the team.

  24. Cindy Luis August 21, 2013 4:02 pm

    are you asking about the Sand Roster? don’t know. may not be until their season starts

  25. Lina August 21, 2013 6:16 pm


    Longo will finish UH as the best Libero the program has ever had up to this point. She did have her inconsistencies during certain random areas in the mid-season, but her skill, leadership, and presence sets so far apart from the others. I think a lot has to do with playing for Penn State during their Championship run, but regardless, that attitude and tenacity is what those top top level teams have(, and now we have that too ;)). But that said, I hope she has changed the attitude of the coaching staff (Shoji) to start giving more priority to Liberos and Defensive Specialists when it comes to their recruiting schemes.

  26. Cindy Luis August 22, 2013 6:55 am

    20. thanks for the update. not sure why you felt the need to post so many teams.
    Too bad they omitted the fact that Shoji was poised to become the all-time winningest coach this season. A little surprised by that.
    No need to yell at me about my VBM vote. I had Hawaii No. 9

  27. Cindy Luis August 22, 2013 7:11 am

    26. surprised about your comment regarding ‘changing the attitude toward Liberos and DSs. The coaching staff has always cared about defense. Is your issue with the majority having not been on scholarship? If so, then that is true. but it’s also pretty much SOP across the country. Ka’aihue was an exception from Day 1. Tama Miyashiro waited a year for a scholarship at UW. But, as I’ve written many a time, who is on scholarship and who isn’t is between the coaches and players. There are also players who have received academic scholarships and aren’t on athletic ones.

  28. Grammy August 22, 2013 8:06 am

    Thank you, Cindy (and Ann), for your depth of knowledge and history of the Wahine programs. It is a joy to see names and occurances brought back by your responses and comments. I don’t think there are more passionate writers around on the Wahine with such an intimate knowledge of the Coach and players and school. I was around them and loved them from the start, but you two have taken us/me so far beyond what any fan even booster could have seen, heard or witnessed. I really appreciate your views and opinions and insights and bow down to your instincts and shared knowledge. Go Wahine!

  29. mauna August 22, 2013 8:56 am

    26. How about next Fall 2014, Savannah Kahakai from Farrington HS has a full ride.

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