Wednesday | November 22, 2017
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Hawaii’s NCAA postseason streak in jeopardy

In the 43 years that the University of Hawaii has been a card-carrying, dues-paying, NCAA-manual-toting Division I member, it has placed at least one of its fall sports teams in the postseason every year.

Think about that distinction for a moment.

It is a pretty remarkable achievement really, a streak of year-in and year-out consistency perhaps unmatched by any other non-Power Five conference athletic program.

Collectively, what UH has managed to do for those 43 years has been especially noteworthy for a school that has fielded teams in just two of the fall sports for about half of those years. The NCAA classifies five sports — field hockey, football, women’s soccer, men’s soccer and women’s volleyball — as fall sports. Not until 1994 did UH offer women’s soccer.

But after Black Saturday, the day when football lost its way in Nevada and the Rainbow Wahine volleyball team lost a 2-0 lead — and the match — at home against Cal Poly, does anybody feel the streak is a lock to reach No. 44?

In some ways it is looking to be the most tenuous season. Football, a team that hasn’t won in a month, is 2-4 (0-3 in the Mountain West) and must win at least four of its six remaining regular-season games to reach the postseason.

Hardly an impossibility given the caliber of the remaining schedule, but the task now assumes a larger degree of difficulty than it had before the debacle in Reno.

Of course, the Rainbow Wahine volleyball team has done the vast majority of the heavy lifting over the years. It has gone to the national tournament — either the NCAA or the AIAW forerunner — every year but one, winning four national championships in the process.

Fortunately, the lagging year, 1992, the Rainbow Warriors won their first Western Athletic Conference championship, going to and winning the Holiday Bowl.

Volleyball is 11-6 (5-1 in the Big West) and needs to take care of business and beat the Mustangs in San Luis Obispo — or get plenty of help from its conference brethren — in order to claim the league’s automatic NCAA bid.

Most years the Rainbow Wahine would have the insurance of an at-large bid to fall back on in the rare case they somehow didn’t win the conference. But as a program-low 51st ranking in the Ratings Percentage Index announced Monday suggests, that safety net is not likely to be in place if needed. The RPI is a metric used by the NCAA selection committee to help evaluate a team’s strength.

This season, as they approach the halfway point in the conference season, the Rainbow Wahine have their work cut out for them. Ten Big West matches remain, six of them on the road, including a visit to San Luis Obispo.

The task deepens with this week’s stops at Long Beach State on Friday on ESPNU and Saturday at Cal State Northridge. The 49ers, UH’s longest enduring rivals but no longer with a Brian Gimmillaro vs. Dave Shoji head coach component, were picked third in the preseason coaches poll.

Nor does it look like Wahine soccer is going to be in a position to help out this year. The preseason pick to finish last in the Big West, the soccer team is 5-7 (0-3).

Running an unbroken 43-year streak of postseason appearances in the fall sports has been quite an accomplishment. Under the circumstances of this season, lifting it to No. 44 would, be, too.

 

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