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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, April 6, 2006

Hawai'i volleyball eyes MPSF top seed

By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer


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The University of Hawai'i men's volleyball team is having so much fun lately it didn't realize it already had clinched the home-court advantage for the opening round of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation playoffs.

At 15-3, the Warriors cannot finish lower than fourth in the MPSF. If the season were to end today, the Warriors would be the No. 2 seed and host either UC Santa Barbara (8-10) or UCLA (8-10) in the April 22 quarterfinals.

Still, with two weekends remaining in the regular season, the Warriors remain in white-hot pursuit of top-ranked UC Irvine (16-2). The top seed earns a bye in the quarterfinals and serves as host to the MPSF semifinals and championship match.

The Warriors certainly have the momentum. They have won 15 in a row, matching the longest winning streak in the program's history, and face UC San Diego (1-23, 0-18 in MPSF) tomorrow and Saturday in the Stan Sheriff Center. The Warriors have won all 33 meetings.

"We're not overlooking anyone," UH middle blocker Dio Dante said. "If you underestimate teams, that's when they come back and bite you in the butt. That's when you lose and that's when you get upset. They're going to be a good team."

Mauli'a LaBarre, UH's other starting middle blocker, added: "We can't worry about winning streaks or the playoffs. We have to take care of our side of the net, and everything will work out."

The Warriors are relatively healthy for the final push. Kyle Klinger, a reserve middle blocker, won't practice for at least another three weeks because of a broken toe. Before Klinger suffered the injury two weeks ago, Jake Schkud had ascended to top backup to Dante and LaBarre.

Dante's injured right pinkie on his hitting hand remains heavily bandaged.

Last season, he suffered a fracture of that pinkie. "This time, just the tendon ripped off," he said. "We pad it and we wrap it and then I take some Advil. It's just a pinkie. It's not that big of a deal. I can deal with it. I'm not a finesse player, anyway."

Meanwhile, LaBarre said this is the "most fun" he's had in his UH career, which started in 2001 and was extended because of a church mission. "We're working hard for the same goal, and that helps us to have fun," he said. "When we're having fun, we're happy."

Reach Stephen Tsai at stsai@honoluluadvertiser.com.