By WES NAKAMA
Stephens Media Hawaii
HONOLULU — Wouldn’t you know it?
UNLV holds a 6-5 series advantage at home against the University of Hawaii. No, not 6/5 as in parlay sheet, but 6-5 as in six victories, five losses. That includes four of the last five meetings at Las Vegas’ Sam Boyd Stadium, despite it usually being filled with thousands of green-clad Rainbow Warrior fans.
In the last meeting there two years ago, UH entered as an 18-point favorite and lost 40-20.
This Saturday (2 p.m. HST), the 0-5 Rainbow Warriors are listed as much as 10-point underdogs to the improved Running Rebels, who are 3-2 and riding a rare three-game win streak.
But strange things happen in Vegas, and big playmakers (receivers Chris Gant, Billy Ray Stutzmann, Vasquez Haynes) have emerged in Hawaii’s once-stagnant offense. The key for UH will be shoring up a defense that surrendered 534 yards to San Jose State last Saturday, including 216 on the ground.
After the game, defensive coordinator Thom Kaumeyer spoke of simplifying the scheme.
“Maybe we put in too much,” he said.
Whatever the case, the Rainbow Warriors must improve on red zone defense (113th in the nation), pass defense and turnover margin (both 112th).
That will be a challenge against a UNLV team averaging 32.2 points per game and 200.8 yards rushing … but going to Las Vegas to challenge the odds is what folks from Hawaii love to do.
For those who don’t make the trip, the game will be available on Oceanic pay-per-view.
WAHINE BACK HOME: UH’s No. 5-ranked women’s volleyball team will be back at the Stan Sheriff Center on Friday and Saturday vs. UC Santa Barbara and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, respectively. Both matches are set for a 7 p.m. first serve and will be televised live on OCSports.
The Rainbow Wahine are 15-1 overall, 4-0 in the Big West Conference after a road sweep of Long Beach State and UC Irvine.
Hawaii moved up one spot in the AVCA national poll and is No. 3 in the NCAA’s first RPI of the season.
SOCCER TEAM ALSO BACK ON OAHU: The Rainbow Wahine soccer team also returns home to Waipio Peninsula Soccer Stadium for Big West action against UCSB and Cal Poly SLO today and Sunday, respectively.
UH is 5-6 overall, 0-2 in the Big West after dropping road conference games at Cal State Fullerton and UC Riverside last weekend.
Today’s game vs. UCSB (7-5, 1-1) is set for 7 p.m., and Sunday’s game vs. Cal Poly SLO (5-7, 1-1) is scheduled for 5 p.m. Both games will be televised live on OCSports.
DIVERS OPEN SEASON: The men’s and women’s diving teams will open their 2013-14 season on Sunday and Monday with a dual meet against Arizona State at Duke Kahanamoku Aquatic Complex on Oahu
The 3-meter springboard competition begins at noon Sunday, followed by the 1-meter event at 2 p.m. The platform competition begins at 2:30 p.m. Monday.
The men’s team is led by senior Luke Hayes, who is the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation’s reigning champion in the 3-meter and platform.
Sophomores Aimee Harrison and Lauren Hall return to lead the Wahine divers. Harrison is the reigning MPSF Diver of the Year and was the first UH freshman since 2007 to qualify for the NCAA championships. Hall won the MPSF 1-meter springboard title.