By WES NAKAMA
Stephens Media Hawaii
HONOLULU — The Big West Conference women’s soccer playoff picture is a complex numbers game, but the University of Hawaii can help control its own destiny with a crucial home game today.
The Rainbow Wahine (7-7-1 overall, 2-3-1 Big West) face Cal Irvine (8-6, 3-2) at 7 p.m. at Waipi‘o Peninsula Soccer Stadium.
Only the top four teams in the final regular-season standings will advance to the Big West tournament starting Nov. 7 in Fullerton, Calif., and the standings are determined by a point system: 3 points for each victory, 1 point for each tie.
Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (5-1, 15 points) is alone in first place and has clinched a playoff berth, while Cal Irvine is tied for second with Cal Riverside and Cal Santa Barbara (both 3-3, 9 points).
Hawaii (7 points) is tied for sixth place with Cal State Fullerton (2-2-1), and only has one regular-season game remaining after today, against Cal State Northridge (0-4-1, 1 point) at home on Nov. 3.
Mathematically, there are multiple ways for the Rainbow Wahine to sneak into the top four — win, lose or draw. But realistically, they need at least one win to stay alive and probably two to get in.
“Irvine is a huge game for us,” coach Michele Nagamine said Wednesday. “Basically these are both must-win games, and even if we win both, we’re probably still going to need a little help.”
A victory today would put UH at 10 points and right in the thick of the playoff race heading into the finale vs. Cal State Northridge; a draw would move them into a tie for fifth place with Long Beach State (2-1-2, 8 points).
After back-to-back road losses at Cal State Fullerton and Cal Riverside earlier this month, the Rainbow Wahine are 2-1-1 in the past four games, with the only loss coming in a 3-2 home defeat in double-overtime vs. Cal Poly SLO after trailing 2-0 in the second half.
“This team is extremely resilient, we’ve been in every single game,” Nagamine said. “I think we’re playing some of the best soccer I’ve seen UH play.”
Today’s game will be televised live statewide on OC16.
RAINBOW WARRIORS UNDERDOGS AGAIN: For the seventh straight time, the UH football team will take the field as underdogs Saturday.
Popular betting lines have Colorado State pegged as a 4-point favorite vs. the Rainbow Warriors in their 6 p.m. Mountain West Conference game at Aloha Stadium’s Hawaiian Airlines Field.
The Rams came off a 4-8 season and started this year at 1-3, but are now 3-4 after a stunning 52-22 victory at Wyoming last Saturday. Hawaii is 0-6 and is coming off a bye week following a 39-37 loss at Nevada-Las Vegas.
WAHINE SPIKERS BACK ON ROAD: The UH women’s volleyball team returns to Big West action today with a 4 p.m. (HST) road match at first-place Cal State Northridge.
The Rainbow Wahine (16-2, 5-1) climbed a spot, to No. 8, in the AVCA Top 25 poll and — more importantly — to No. 9 in the RPI, despite having a week off from NCAA competition. The RPI is weighed more heavily than the Top 25 when it comes to NCAA Tournament seedings.
Cal State Northridge (16-4, 6-1) is No. 55 in RPI but leads UH by a half-game in the conference standings. Matadors senior outside hitter Mahina Haina, an ‘Iolani School graduate from Honolulu, is second on the team in kills per set at 2.84.
The Rainbow Wahine will continue the road trip on Saturday with a 4 p.m. road match at UC Davis (11-9, 3-4).
CALIP FINISHES 32ND: UH senior Nainoa Calip, a Kamehameha-Hawaii graduate from Hilo, finished in 32nd place in the Bill Cullum Invitational at Simi Valley, Calif., this past Monday and Tuesday.
Calip shot a 2-over 74 in Monday’s first round, followed by scores of 73 and 72 in 36 holes Tuesday to finish at 3-over 219.
RESPECT FOR WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: The UH ladies were tabbed to finish second in the Big West’s preseason media poll, behind only defending league champion Cal Poly.
Senior forward Kamilah Jackson was named to the all-conference team.