Hawai'i turns back upset-minded UCSD
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By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Stephen Tsai
Nearly bounced by a reality check, the University of Hawai'i volleyball team regrouped to pull out a 38-36, 37-39, 30-20, 30-21 victory over UC San Diego last night in the Stan Sheriff Center.
The Warriors extended their winning streak to a school-record 16 matches, and improved to 20-4 overall and 16-3 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation. They can clinch at least a second-place finish with a victory in tonight's rematch.
All of which meant zip as the Warriors struggled against an opponent mired in a 14-season slump. Since joining the MPSF in 1993, the Tritons are 12-264 in league matches. They entered last night's match with an 0-18 MPSF record and a 0-33 disadvantage in the series against the Warriors.
The Tritons' accurate passing and pesky serving helped them frustrate the Warriors in Game 1, and they overcame a 28-23 deficit en route to an upset in Game 2.
"They did nothing to surprise me at all," UH coach Mike Wilton said at the end of the 2-hour, 31-minute match. "They play hard. They're well coached. They don't make too many mistakes. All of the surprises were on our side of the net. I was in shock during the first two games. I hadn't seen anything like that since January. We didn't do anything well. Some of our guys didn't come ready to go."
Although the Warriors had vowed not to overlook the Tritons, Wilton said, "well, there's walking and there's talking."
UH setter Brian Beckwith conceded: "I think we plain-out underestimated these guys. Anyone who came to watch us noticed that. We looked at them on paper. We saw them on film. We knew they were 0-18, and they definitely played better than their record. I was absolutely surprised at their ability."
Indeed, not only did the Warriors struggle in the serve-and-pass phases in the first two games, they were uncharacteristically lethargic.
"We definitely didn't make a very good emotional investment," Beckwith said. "We didn't put ourselves on the line like we usually do. We thought we could walk through this one, and obviously we couldn't."
The Warriors were without their best attacker, outside hitter José José Delgado, who was bed-ridden with flu-like symptoms. His passing was missed as much as his team-high 4.33 kills per game.
Delgado's replacement, Johnny Matt Bender, was replaced three times with Eric Kalima, a converted libero, in an attempt to stabilize the Warriors' passing.
The only thing to cool down the Tritons was the UH marketing department's mandated 10-minute intermission between Games 2 and 3. The usual break is three minutes.
San Diego, a Division II program that does not offer scholarships and plays to sparse crowds, was emotionally spent for the start of Game 3.
"I think playing in front of this crowd, and spending so much energy in the first two games, it was an adrenline high," Triton coach Kevin Ring said. "That only carries you so far. That kind of dipped a little. When you start getting tired, the focus left a little bit."
Meanwhile, the Warriors received a boost from backup middle blocker Jake Schkud. "He's the sparkplug," Beckwith said.
In the first two games, each team scored 22 points on their serves. In the final two games, the Warriors built a 26-8 advantage. Schkud's jump-float serve accounted for 12 points in the final two games, including a seven-point run that extended the lead to 20-11 in Game 3.
"I was having trouble with my jump serve, so I went back to the float serve I learned from Brian (Beckwith)," Schkud said. "It seemed to work for me. I like to call it the 'Hissing Cockroach,' courtesy of Brian Beckwith."
Beckwith said: "That's what they used to call my serve last year. It was a float serve, but it was fast and it had a sting to it. I passed it down to Jake."
Once back in system, the Warriors took control of the other phases. The Tritons had repeatedly "tooled" the block — ricocheting shots out of bounds — early. But UH's tough serves led to erratic passes and eventually tell-tale sets. The Warriors were able to plant their block and smother the Tritons' spikes.
"We made the right adjustments," said UH's Dio Dante, who contributed to 11 of 15 blocks.
Schkud said: "When somebody keeps doing the same thing over and over, all you can do is adjust."
Matt Carere led the Warriors with 21 kills and Hakala added 20.
Reach Stephen Tsai at email@example.com.