Wilton praises makeshift lineup
By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer
WHO: BYU (16-3, 14-1 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) vs. Hawai'i (13-6, 10-5)
WHEN: 7 tonight
WHERE: Stan Sheriff Center
ADMISSION: $14 (lower bowl), $11 (upper bowl), $9 (senior citizens), $3 (ages 4-18, UH students and super rooters)
TV/RADIO: Live on K5 and KKEA 1420-AM
If three suspended UH starters are reinstated Monday, as expected, they will need to win back their spots atop the depth chart, UH coach Mike Wilton said.
"I think that's appropriate," Wilton said.
Opposite hitter Pedro Azenha, left-side hitter Delano Thomas, primary passer José José Delgado and backup middle blocker Dionisio Dante are serving suspensions from competition for breaking an undisclosed team rule during a recent road trip. They will meet with Wilton Monday.
In a spirited four-game loss to BYU Thursday, Wilton replaced 6-foot-7 Azenha with 6-3 Matt Bender, 6-7 Thomas with 6-4 Ryan Woodward, and 6-3 Delgado with 6-foot Arri Jeschke.
Senior setter Kimo Tuyay also started in place of freshman Brian Beckwith, who is recovering from tonsillitis.
The Warriors had more kills (66 to 63) and blocks (10.5 to 9.5) than the taller Cougars, but were short-circuited by 30 attack errors and 20 serving mistakes. Despite the outcome, Wilton acknowledged the Warriors played with enthusiasm.
"You never like to lose, but I'm telling you, I appreciated the effort from the team that we had on the floor," he said. "Imagine, they were actually having fun. Hello? That's how it's supposed to be."
Wilton said Beckwith is healthy enough to practice extensively, but surrounded by inexperienced players, Tuyay is the better choice to start tonight.
"Kimo is supplying some leadership that this team needs right now," Wilton said. "That's not a slam on Brian. But Brian's a freshman, and maybe Kimo has a little more cred. He can put his foot down a little bit more."
As for the other new starters, Wilton said, "I like what's been happening so much if they make another nice effort on Saturday, that will be the starting lineup (beginning Monday) and we'll see what happens during the week."
Quick learner: For BYU middle blocker Victor Batista, the learning curve was a shortcut. A few weeks after enrolling at the Provo, Utah, school in January, Batista was in the starting lineup. Now Batista, a 24-year-old freshman from the Dominican Republic, is one of the Cougars' most productive players.
"It doesn't usually happen that someone who's not all-world comes in and starts," BYU coach Tom Peterson said. "That just doesn't happen in any sport. But because of his personality, I think that's why it worked very well."
Batista played six years for Club Tamayo and also was a member of the Dominican Republic national team. Through a friend of a friend, Peterson learned of Batista. "We tried to get him (to BYU) earlier, but the logistics were hard," Peterson said. "We ran out of time in the first semester."
Batista said he chose BYU because "I wanted a college education. It's important to have something in mind apart from volleyball."
Batista earned qualifying scores on the SAT and NCAA's entrance exam for international students. But he was not fluent in English, admitting, "in the beginning, I understood nothing in my first week (at BYU). I'm improving every day."
Carlos Moreno, who enrolled at BYU in January 2002 and earned the starting job two weeks later, said, "I don't think he needs any translation in the game. He knows what to do."
At his first practice, Batista, who is 6 feet 6 and 165 pounds, did not impress teammates with his physique. "We heard he was really good, but we saw him and it was like, 'What's going on here?' " outside hitter Jonathan Alleman recalled.
With injuries to middle blockers Michael Burke and Chris Gorny, Batista, an experienced outside hitter, was moved inside. "He started hammering balls, and he's done very well," Alleman said, noting Batista also is an accurate passer.
Peterson said: "He's very agile. We should start calling him Gumby."
BYU, which is administered by the Mormon church, has a sizeable international enrollment. "Since we are a church school, we've had a lot of people who served church missions," Alleman said. "I think we have a lot of respect for other cultures. Even though it seems our school is predominantly white, we have people who serve all over the world. We love having people who are international."
Reach Stephen Tsai at email@example.com or 525-8051.