Sports

UHH Women’s Hoops Picked to Finish Ninth in PacWest

November 7, 2014, 6:12 PM HST
* Updated November 7, 6:13 PM
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University of Hawai’i at Hilo women’s basketball coach David Kaneshiro has 11 players returning for the 2014-2015 season.

Will that equate to the consistency he has long been searching for?

Kaneshiro got his first glimpse of that last Wednesday when his Vulcans fell to the University of Hawai’i in an exhibition game at the Stan Sheriff Center. Even though the scoreboard didn’t end close, the fifth-year coach saw things he could build on.

“I thought this year, compared to maybe the last two years when we played Coach Beeman’s team in that exhibition game, we played a little bit harder this year and maybe competed a little better, in terms of just the physicality and trying to match their physical nature,” said Kaneshiro.

UH-Hilo fell 90-53 that night and will have a lot of time to refine things in practice before the true start to the season against Minot State University on Nov. 19,

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The good news for Kaneshiro and his staff is that he has a lot of familiar names to work with, including three-point specialist Kirstie Williams, who scored 11 points and hit three treys in the exhibition contest.

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Also back is two of UH-Hilo’s no-nonsense forwards in McKenzie Mangino and Hayley Reynolds, along with reserve post players Tricia Amuimuia, Danielle Kooyman, and Kiana Lee.

One returning player that could cause headaches in the PacWest conference is Alexa Jacobs, a sophomore guard who had her rookie season cut short after nine games due to a leg injury.

“Alexa’s done a really good job for us early,” Kaneshiro explained. “If she’s not 100 percent, she’s really really close. When we started our fall conditioning in September, she was already running without a brace and was basically cleared to do all of our conditioning workouts. Watching her play now, it’s hard to tell that she had an injury. She’s worked really hard to get back.”

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Jordan Kealoha also returns for her second year with the program, and figures to be a consistent starter at the point guard position. Jacobs will back her up, along with senior Chelsea Santos.

At the other guard positions, expect to see a combination of Whitney Edens, C.C. Rode, and newcomers Alia Alvarez and Feli Kolb.

Speaking of newcomers, Kaneshiro landed one of the top seniors in prep basketball on the Big Island last year in Aliyah Pana. The Hilo High School graduate didn’t play in the exhibition game, but has a lot of intangibles that Kaneshiro likes.

“She is just what we thought when we recruited her,” said Kaneshiro, “She’s very skilled, a forward who can play inside and out. She has a high basketball IQ, picks up on things really well, and is doing a good job for us.”

UH-Hilo is projected to finish ninth in a crowded PacWest Conference race, according to the league’s preseason awards list. The Vulcans may not have a go-to player like Kamie Imai last season, but a consistent team effort could send them back to the PacWest tournament.

2014-2014 PacWest Preseason Women’s Basketball Poll (first place votes listed in parenthesis)

1. Academy of Art (11) – 167 points

2. Azusa Pacific (2) – 155

3. California Baptist – 139

4. Hawai’i Pacific – 125

5. Point Loma Nazarene – 110

6. Dixie State – 93

7. Fresno Pacific – 92

8. Dominican – 71

9. Hawai’i-Hilo – 67

10. Notre Dame de Namur – 58

11. Holy Names – 46

12. BYU-Hawai’i – 42

13. Chaminade – 18

2014-2015 Preseason All-PacWest Women’s Basketball Team

Morganne Comstock (Forward) – Hawai’i Pacific

Kamille Diaz (Guard) – California Baptist

Jessica Escorza (Guard) – Point Loma Nazarene

Krystal Forthan (Forward) – Academy of Art

Kelly Hardeman (Forward) – Azusa Pacific

Brydgette Tatupu-Leopoldo (Guard) – BYU-Hawai’i

2014-2014 Preseason PacWest Women’s Basketball Player of the Year

Krystal Forthan – Academy of Art

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