Thursday, February 1, 2001
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Posted on: Thursday, February 1, 2001

Warriors serve notice with sweep of Gauchos

By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

Heck has no fury like a volleyball player scorned.

Finding redemption from rejection, Hawaii sophomore outside hitter Costas Theocharidis led the charge in a 30-16, 30-17, 30-24 rout of fifth-ranked UC Santa Barbara last night in the Stan Sheriff Center.

No. 7 UH is 6-1 overall and 2-0 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation. UCSB is 3-2 and 1-2. The rematch is tomorrow night.

Two years ago, Theocharidis met with the UCSB staff to discuss the possibility of joining the Gauchos. But after lengthy talks, Theocharidis did not receive an invitation, and he ended up in Manoa, where he was named an All-America player as a freshman.

"They said I’m not at the level for the collegiate championship," Theocharidis said, smiling.

Last night, Theocharidis made the Gauchos pay, throwing down six kills and, most important, setting the tone with blistering serves estimated at up to 70 mph. He had four of the Warriors’ seven aces.

"He always plays well against Santa Barbara," UH assistant coach Aaron Wilton said. "We feel like telling him we’re playing Santa Barbara every night."

UH’s strong serves turned UCSB’s side of the net into a six-man scramble. The Gauchos had difficulty starting their offense and even more trouble finishing, hitting .000 in each of the first two games. They hit .207 in the third and finished at .054.

The Gauchos’ best hitter, Ben Koski, finished at .000.

"We figured if we had a good serve, it would ruin them," said UH outside hitter Eyal Zimet, who had an ace and match-high 10 kills. "I’m not a very big boxing fan, but (a good serve is) pretty much like a good jab. It knocks the opponent out of balance."

The Gauchos were wobbly from the first game, when the Warriors scored eight in a row to extend their lead to 19-7. Seven of the points came when Theocharidis served, including two aces. He received an ovation when his eighth serve sailed long.

Soon after, five Gaucho starters were benched. The Warriors responded with their version of garbage time, giving freshman middle blocker Maulia LaBarre several turns in the rotation.

Meanwhile, the Warriors owned the net, amassing 13.5 blocks. The Gauchos had only one block, in the second game. UH setter Kimo Tuyay had two solo blocks and assisted on three others.

"We served well, we played well," UH coach Mike Wilton said.

Two weeks ago, the Gauchos, who were ranked No. 2 before losing to Stanford, beat 18-time NCAA champion UCLA. But they appeared to be out of sync last night. Perhaps it was nerves — the 3,116 hecklers delivered particularly sharp barbs — but most likely the Gauchos were not prepared for the Theocharidis-energized Warriors.

"It bothered me," Theocharidis said of the UCSB rejection. "I try not to care anymore. The only thing I care about now is the UH volleyball team."

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