WAILUKU - It was over quickly, so they decided to play some more.
Unfortunately for the packed house of about 2,100 on hand at War Memorial Gym, none of it went the University of Hawaii women's volleyball team's way. On homecoming night for Maui County freshmen Kalei Adolpho and Ginger Long, Nebraska rolled to a 25-23, 25-16, 25-15 sweep - and then, to give the fans more bang for their buck, the Cornhuskers quickly won a fourth set, 25-16.
"I am really disappointed we couldn't give the fans a better showing tonight," said UH coach Dave Shoji. "But it is the spring and it is time to experiment and we lost three really good players off last year's team. We are just trying to find our way and obviously they exploited every weakness we had out there. They are a good team."
Hawaii’s Ginger Long gets ready to serve during the Rainbow Wahine’s exhibition match against Nebraska on Friday at War Memorial Gym.
The Maui News / LEHIA APANA photo
Nebraska finished last season 25-5 and ranked 12th in the final coaches poll after a second-round loss in the NCAA tournament. Hawaii finished fifth in the final poll after a 32-2 campaign that ended with a loss in the round of 16 in the NCAAs.
Molokai's Adolpho, who was a backup middle blocker for the Rainbow Wahine in 2011, finished with four kills. Long, a second team AVCA prep All-American as a senior at Kamehameha Maui who redshirted as a freshman, had three kills.
They were the players most sought by the rabid fans who were still in line for autographs an hour and a half after the match ended.
"It is an amazing feeling to be back here," Adolpho said as she signed volleyballs, team pictures, T-shirts and towels. "I remember playing in here, coming over to Maui in, like, 6th grade. Top be a college player now, back in here playing, it is just a great feeling."
Shoji said a two-way street helped make the trip possible.
"I'm not sure we will come over all the time, but this was certainly a great atmosphere and we'd like to do it again," Shoji said. "It depends on if we can get a good team like Nebraska to come over - they were very hospitable in agreeing to come over here."
The UH men's basketball team has played a game on Maui each of the last two years and the men's volleyball team played on the Valley Isle last season, but this was the Rainbow Wahine's first trip to Maui since War Memorial Gym hosted a day of the Hawaiian Airlines Tournament in 1990.
The Cornhuskers have been to the North Shore and Waikiki to surf during their week in the 50th state, while practicing daily on the UH campus.
"You need cooperation from the other team," Shoji said. "They didn't get any financial guarantees to come over here, they are paying their own way in Honolulu. We are just providing the practice time. So, it is a good relationship. We need the competition. They want to get out of Nebraska and come to Hawaii once every four years. So, yeah, it has been good."
Adolpho also plays basketball for UH - the school's new coach, Laura Beeman, was introduced to the Maui crowd between the second and third sets. Adolpho said she has not met Beeman yet.
Hawaii athletic director Jim Donovan said the UH women's basketball team will be on Maui next year.
"It was OK," Adolpho said of the demand to play both sports. "It was a lot going, adjusting was hard, but it was something I just had to do, mentally getting your mind around it - changing sports. Overall, it is not too bad. I really enjoy it. I love the seasons and I love traveling and I love playing. It is all fun."
Shoji said that Adolpho will be counted on at a middle blocker spot in the fall, especially after Brittany Hewitt retired from the sport before her senior year.
Emily Hartong had 16 kills for UH on Friday, Jane Croson had eight and Mita Uiato dished out 34 assists.
"I see that we have some firepower on the left with Hartong and Croson, and Mita is a really good setter," Shoji said. "So those three positions are solid. We need somebody to step forward in the middle. I think Jade Vorster in time will be a good player and Kalei has the potential to step up there."
Long will have to earn her playing time at outside hitter, Shoji said.
"Either left or the right, we need help on the right but I think she could help us in a double-sub situation," he said. "Really, it is going to be up to her."
Long said: "It was really great to be back where it all began with the support of the whole island, but obviously we have a lot of work to do."
The Huskers outblocked the Rainbow Wahine 22-20, and had an 8-4 advantage in aces and 43-23 edge in digs.
"The environment in here was just unbelievable, the energy in the building," said Nebraska coach John Cook. "What a great place to play volleyball."
The Huskers will visit Pearl Harbor today.
"It was really great," said Nebraska's Gina Mancuso, who had 16 kills. "The fans here in Hawaii remind us a lot of Nebraska."
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org