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The Big Question

With the start of the Rainbow Wahine volleyball season, all fans want to know is: Who will replace Kamanao?


photo courtesy of UH Media Relations, UH Athletic Department

Dave Shoji has seen hundreds of players come and go during his 32 years as coach of the University of Hawaii Wahine volleyball team. But rarely has one of those student-athletes left a lasting impression like four-time All-American setter Kanoe Kamanao (seen in photo at left), who completed her collegiate eligibility last season.

“We got pretty spoiled with her and took a lot for granted,” says Shoji. “The sets were always there for the hitters, and it was pretty automatic. It will be interesting without her, and we’re prepared for that. But I’m not sure how it will affect the team.”

After four years with Hawaii, Kamanao leaves her posts as Wahine team captain and floor general with an impressive resumé. In addition to helping Hawaii notch four Western Athletic Conference championships, Kamanao claimed three WAC Player of the Year Awards and earned the Joe Kearney Best Female Athlete award twice, in 2005 and 2006. Currently, she’s a candidate for the prestigious NCAA Woman of the Year Award.

“She’s just an extremely hard worker and would practice even when she was hurt,” Shoji says. “She was a quiet leader, but everybody respected her game and her attitude.”

So how will Shoji find someone to replace her? The daunting task starts with a competition between two recent arrivals at Manoa: redshirt freshman Dani Mafua and sophomore Stephanie Brandt, who transferred from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Mafua, a Mid-Pacific Institute grad, is relatively new to the setter position. Although she has the edge in athletic ability, Brandt seized the advantage, thanks to a year as the setter for UCSB. Last season, Brandt led the Gauchos with 1,348 assists, as well as 43 service aces.

“I will have two capable setters, and I’m pretty certain both will get an opportunity to run the team,” Shoji says. That means fans will have to wait until the Asics Rainbow Wahine Invitational on Aug. 24—the start of the 2007-2008 season—to see who’s really got what it takes to follow one of the best setters in the school’s history.

Why We’ll Miss Kanoe Kamanao

In her four years at UH, the Iolani High grad:
SET school and WAC records for career assists (6,428) and assists per game (13.74). RANKED seventh in NCAA history in assists, and eighth in assists per game. JOINED former Rainbow Wahine All-American Kim Willoughby as the only three-time WAC Players of the Year. PLAYED for the U.S. National Team in 2005. ROCKED.


Dig This!

The scoop on the 2007 season.

This year, expect some familiar faces in the lineup after a rash of injuries hit last year’s Rainbow Wahine squad that still managed a 29-6 overall record. Four players—(from left to right) middle blockers Juliana Sanders and Nickie Thomas and outside hitters Jessica Keefe and Tara Hittle—underwent off-season surgeries. All are cleared for the team’s first practice on Aug. 9.
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