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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, April 13, 2002

UH overwhelms BYU

By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

UH's Dejan Miladinovic stuffed BYU's Kimo Acosta for one of his 11 blocks in last night's MPSF match.

Eugene Tanner • The Honolulu Advertiser

Sometimes it is better to be plucky than good.

Despite erratic play, the second-ranked University of Hawai'i men's volleyball team scratched out a 30-26, 30-27, 30-22 victory over No. 4 Brigham Young last night in the Stan Sheriff Center.

A crowd of 5,502 saw the Warriors improve to 20-6 overall and 17-4 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, clinching the No. 2 seed for the league playoffs, which begin Saturday. The Warriors will likely play host to Long Beach State.

The Cougars, who fell to 21-6 and 15-6, need to win tonight's rematch to finish the regular season in fourth place. The top four finishers play at home in the opening round.

"It's good to get the second seed," UH setter Kimo Tuyay said. "That gives us a lot of confidence. We don't want to lose any more matches from now on."

Middle blocker Dejan Miladinovic said the Warriors were not at their best. "We didn't play our 'A' game, but we still managed to win, and that's all that matters," he said.

Said UH coach Mike Wilton: "It was one of those matches where I thought, 'Let's grind it out, guys,' and we did."

The Warriors continued to benefit from a lineup switch implemented during last week's series sweep of UCLA. For the second consecutive match, Costas Theocharidis started at opposite, where he hits from the right side during five rotation spots, and Tony Ching opened at Theocharidis' usual position on the left side.

The moves have helped Tuyay, who is more comfortable setting to the left side, to distribute the offense equally.

Instead of always relying on Theocharidis, Tuyay said, "right now we can pick and choose whoever's going to hit."

Last night, Tuyay turned to the 6-foot-2 Ching, who used his 42-inch vertical leap to hammer a match-high 14 kills and hit .370. All of Ching's kills were launched from the left side.

"That's the spot I'm used to playing," he said. "Earlier in the season, the coach had me play opposite and I was really struggling. We made the change, and I think it's worked out well. Costas is still putting away his kills and I can contribute a little more to the team."

Ching's improved play also can be traced to a father-knows-best chat.

"For sure, I was very hot-headed," he said. "My dad got in my ear about it. He told I played my best games when I'm mellow. He said, 'Use your emotions only when you need them.' He told me 'to stay level-headed and not worry about your mistakes.' That's what I've been doing lately, and it's really helped."

Unburdened from carrying the offensive load, Theocharidis has focused on his other skills. He had eight digs and, positioned on Miladinovic's left on double blocks, amassed four rejections.

"Costas can adjust to anything," Tuyay said.

The new rotation creates a situation in which the three best servers — Eyal Zimet, Delano Thomas and Theocharidis — are 1-2-3 in the lineup, helping the Warriors avoid prolonged scoring slumps.

"That part is good," Wilton said.

UH's well-placed serves led to poor BYU passing. As a result, outside hitters Mike Wall and Joaquin Acosta were ambushed by double and triple blocks the entire match. In the third game, Miladinovic and Tuyay teamed to block Wall on three consecutive swings from the left side.

Two serves later, Wall sneaked to the right side, where his line shot was stuffed by Zimet. On his next attempt, Wall launched a crossing shot that sailed into the third row of the UH booster section.

Wall had nine errors and hit .074; Acosta's eight errors contributed to his .115 efficiency.

"We lost that serving-receiving battle," BYU outside hitter Luka Slabe said. "Our setter had to run all over the place because we didn't pass well. That's it."

BYU coach Carl McGown had warned his players of the effects of not playing in Utah's high altitude.

"Serving and receiving are different at sea level than at altitude," McGown said. "We lost that battle, and if you lose that battle, you're surely going to lose the match. We didn't do a good job in those areas, and they beat us up pretty good."

Said Miladinovic: "The setters and hitters were a little disconnected. That ruined their confidence. We managed to slow down their outside hitters. That was the plan from the beginning. We had a tough serve all night long. We concentrated on the outside. I think we did a good job."

Meanwhile, Tuyay praised the Warriors' passing. Zimet, Theocharidis, Ching and libero Vernon Podlewski "gave me perfect passes," Tuyay said. "I didn't have to move once. We'll win every single game if we pass like that."

The Cougars and Warriors have strong ties. McGown once offered an assistant's job to Wilton. Yesterday, the teams gathered for a pot luck.

Still, the Warriors vowed not to extend the hospitality onto the court. "Even though we clinched second, we want to make a statement, just in case we meet again in the playoffs," Podlewski said.