By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer
Tonights season-opening volleyball opponents Lewis and Hawaii are as different as Romeoville, Ill. and Honolulu.
Lewis, located southwest of Chicago and down the road from a state prison, has an enrollment of 4,100. UH-Manoas enrollment (17,263) is greater than Romeovilles population (16,000).
|UH mens coach Mike Wilton and his opposite number tonight, Lewis Dave Deuser, have built national powers with different approaches and budgets. Wilton has won 68 percent of his matches; Deuser 72 percent of his.
Jeff Widener The Honolulu Advertiser
The Flyers volleyball program was started in 1994 as a way to raise money. The 10 or so non-scholarship players on the Lewis roster, the bean counters figured, equated to 10 more tuitions. The Warriors, meanwhile, were only one of two mens college volleyball teams to turn a profit last year.
Last fall, each Lewis player was asked to sell raffle tickets to help supplement the Flyers annual operating budget of $20,000. The Warriors earned $711,000 in ticket revenue last year.
It is on the court where both programs find a common ground. Each is an elite program that has appeared in two of the last six NCAA final four tournaments. Dave Deuser has won 72 percent of his matches at Lewis; UHs Mike Wilton has a winning percentage of .678 in nine years in volleyballs toughest conference.
Each roster is a blend of local and international players. Whats more, Lewis outside hitter Jorge Alifonso and setter Jorge Perez played for UH two years ago.
"It should be a good test," Wilton said of the first of two matches in the Stan Sheriff Center. The second will be played Friday night. First serve is at 7 both nights.
Wilton has divided UHs season into steps, his so-called "goal ladder." In the first month, he is seeking to mesh two newcomers freshman setter Kimo Tuyay and libero Vernon Podlewski with four players who started last season. Middle blocker Dejan Miladinovic, who spent last year rehabilitating an injured right shoulder, also is back.
Wilton said the three-game sweep over an all-star alumni team this past Saturday reaffirmed his assessment following fall training camp: That UH is a talented although not deep team that has the potential to contend for a national title.
He said the Warriors have displayed good ball control, power from the outside and unity. Under the new rules, which allow lets (serves that continue over the net after hitting the nylon first), the Warriors remain aggressive.
"Were really serving tough," Wilton said. "Thats not an accident."
Wilton said the team spends 30 minutes of every practice working on serves. Each serve is rated and, at the end of every practice, "punishment" sprints are doled to those who fail to earn qualifying scores.
Wilton said the Warriors will need to be at their best against Lewis, a team cloaked in mystery. Three Flyers played last season; UH, of course, is familiar with a fourth, Perez.
"We dont know a lot about them," Wilton said. "Then again, there are some things they dont know about us. To be honest, were going into this blind."
Deuser is offering few clues, other than the Flyers will remain true to their style: Control the ball, move the offense quickly, hit around not over the blocks.
It is a scheme that Deuser has perfected since the beginning, when he was earning $6,000 a year as a part-time head coach. At 35 and now full time (he earns $38,000 annually), Deuser still lives with his parents to save money, but his program has grown to national prominence.
Chicago and its suburbs have provided a rich source of talent. Deusers reputation and connections have drawn players from Brazil, Puerto Rico and California.
"Now," Deuser says of the early critics, "they realize our program is for real."
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