UH goes after first MPSF title
By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer
Today's championship 4 p.m. Hawai'i time
Hawai'i (22-7) vs. Pepperdine (27-4)
Radio: Live KCCN (1420 AM), 3:45 p.m.
Tonight the second-ranked Warriors meet No. 1 Pepperdine in the MPSF championship match. The winner earns the MPSF's automatic berth in the final four. Pepperdine, as the regular-season champion of the nation's best conference, has been assured of a berth regardless of tonight's outcome.
But the NCAA's three-member selection committee also has assured UH that it is a virtual lock for a berth in the final four. The Warriors, who finished second in the MPSF, already have booked airplane tickets for the trip to University Park, Pa., site of the final four.
"I cannot see an extraordinary circumstance that would prevent us from earning a berth (in the final four)," UH assistant coach Tino Reyes said.
The selection committee factors records, rankings and schedules in choosing an at-large team. Reyes said in every scenario, "I don't see any competition."
Pepperdine coach Marv Dunphy agreed, and insisted both schools will be heading east.
The Warriors have never won an MPSF tournament title nor, in two attempts as an at-large team, an NCAA title. If they win tonight, they will earn the top seed in the NCAA final four. If they lose, they probably will be seeded second or third. The championship match is Saturday.
For now, the Warriors are focusing on Pepperdine, which enters with a 15-match winning streak. The Waves were expected to rebuild this season after outside hitter Scott Wong and setter Keith Barnett completed their eligibility last year. But Sean Rooney, the MPSF Freshman of the Year, has adequately replaced Wong, and setter Beau Daniels has fit in well with the Waves' quick-moving offense.
Outside hitter Fred Winters is an improved passer, and middle blocker Brad Keenan, who uses a slide-step move to hit from several spots along the net, has developed into the MPSF's best player.
The Warriors lost two regular-season matches to Pepperdine. But during that series, they were without 6-foot-7 freshman middle blocker Delano Thomas, who remained in Hawai'i to focus on academics.