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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, March 27, 2003

Warriors sweep San Diego

Advertiser Staff

Even with its best player on the bench and three starters suffering from persistent coughs, the second-ranked University of Hawai'i men's volleyball team showed no ill effects yesterday, cruising to a 30-25, 30-19, 30-26 victory over UC San Diego in LaJolla, Calif.

The Warriors, who have won all 28 matches in this series, improved to 18-5 overall and 12-5 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation. The Tritons, who have never won more than two MPSF matches during a season, fell to 5-17 and 1-16.

UH will clinch a berth in the MPSF Tournament if it wins tomorrow night's rematch or if UCLA loses to Cal State Northridge tonight.

Last night, the Warriors won without outside hitter Costas Theocharidis, who was rested, allowing second-year freshman Matt Bender to start at opposite hitter.

"Bender has been working very hard," UH coach Mike Wilton said. "He's been a thorn in their side in practice. We wanted to give him a chance."

Bender, usually the serving specialist, had eight kills and six digs.

"It was a lot of fun," he said. "It was nice to be relied upon. It was good to know that my coach trusts me and my teammates trust me. That's the best feeling in the world. That's why people play team sports."

UH libero Jake Muise said he had little doubt Bender would play well.

"Those guys," Muise said of the UH reserves, "play against the best every day. I have the most faith in them."

By the middle of the third game, 11 of the 12 players on the active roster had played. The lone exception was Theocharidis, UH's career kill leader.

"They wanted to rest Costas," Bender said. "We need him for the MPSF (Tournament) and stuff."

Outside hitter Tony Ching, who missed the last two matches because of flu-like symptoms, started despite a persistent cough.