Feb. 28—If you are former University of Hawaii coach Dave Shoji or anybody else who scans the broadcasts of women's volleyball these days, you've got to be wondering what this year of enforced absence from competition might hold for the Rainbow Wahine.
While 283 other NCAA Division I volleyball-playing schools have competed—or are currently playing during some portion of COVID-19—the Rainbow Wahine, through no fault of their own and a confluence of circumstances, are among the 15 % not scheduled to so much as set a toe on the Taraflex in league competition for the 2020-21 academic year.
Had the Big West Conference not shut down competition on the fall season in July and reaffirmed the closing for the winter-spring in December citing, "... consideration of the ongoing health and safety challenges affecting Big West campuses and communities, and the significant resources required to properly safeguard the health and well-being of all student-athletes, " the Rainbow Wahine would likely be well on their way to a second consecutive Big West title. And, no doubt gearing up for a 28th NCAA appearance in a row come April.
Instead, there are 31 conferences playing on the Division I level and just two have canceled their fall and spring seasons. "Us and the Ivy League are the only conferences not playing and I find that rather absurd, " Shoji said. "I think it is a shame that the Big West pulled the plug on Wahine volleyball and soccer. I think they pulled the plug too early."
When you play in the Big West, where all the members but Hawaii are based in California, smack dab in what for the longest time was one of the cauldrons of COVID-19, you can be doomed by those around you, as UH has been.
In addition, while UH is one of the few places where volleyball returns significant income, in the Big West the sport is often more of a drain and less of a priority.
That's why, even on their own campus, the Rainbow Wahine are finding themselves in the minority of teams that have been sidelined. Football, another fall sport, played on with an abbreviated schedule. Men's and women's basketball, men's volleyball, softball, baseball, swimming and diving, and golf are competing now, as will beach volleyball and some others.
While we can exult in what should be the naming of the Rainbow Warrior volleyball team as No. 1 in the AVCA coaches poll this coming week, you've got to wonder how the year away will impact the Rainbow Wahine when they return.
"To not play for a year you are going to see some effect, " Shoji said. "That's because you cannot train all the time for a year and expect to be good. I'm watching games on TV now and the teams are really not consistent and the play has been sporadic. It is up and down."
The Hall of Famer said he fears that might be "double fold for when our team takes the court. For at least a year, I think it might be a bit of a step back. I think it is just unfortunate."
Then, there is the matter of the fans. "I'm going to be interested in seeing if we do get fans back (in large numbers ) in the fall because people are getting used to not going to games, " Shoji said. "I'll be worried if we don't get those 5, 000-6, 000 and we start getting 2, 000-3, 000."
When Wahine volleyball, hopefully, returns in the fall there will be a lot to look forward to and no small amount to be concerned about.------Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis @staradvertiser.com or 529-4820.------