Hawai'i wastes little time against UCSD
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By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Stephen Tsai
Put a stopwatch to the University of Hawai'i volleyball team's 17th consecutive victory.
The Warriors wasted little time in wasting UC San Diego, 30-20, 30-25, 30-19, before 2,699 in the Stan Sheriff Center.
It took 89 minutes — a span that included commercial timeouts, a 10-minute intermission and the Tritons' take-that timeout at aloha ball — for the Warriors to improve to 21-4 overall and 17-3 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation.
With two home matches against Brigham Young remaining in the regular season, the Warriors will earn no lower than the No. 2 seed in the MPSF postseason tournament, whose winner advances to the NCAA final four. It is a significant position because the MPSF has supplied the at-large team in all but one of the past 24 final four tournaments.
"No, it doesn't mean anything yet," said UH coach Mike Wilton, who predicted the Warriors would have to reach the championship match of the MPSF tournament to earn a berth in the NCAA final four.
"Our goal is not to lose ever," said floor captain Matt Carere, noting that top-ranked UC Irvine has one fewer loss than the Warriors. UH would earn the tie-breaker over the Anteaters.
"If they stay No. 1, and they lose in the MPSF tournament, there goes the at-large bid if we don't win it," Carere said. "We have to keep winning. That's our only focus."
Last night, the Warriors managed to refocus in holding off UC San Diego.
The Tritons entered this two-match series with a 14-season MPSF record of 12-263, including 0-18 this year.
In Friday's opening match, the Tritons went to extra play in Games 1 and 2 before eventually losing in four games.
"In that match, we came out a little laxed," UH middle blocker Mauli'a LaBarre said. "There's always that paper deal, what a team looks like on paper. It's like George Mason in basketball. You see that '11th seed' instead of a good team. The paper fools you. When you're playing San Diego, you're thinking, '0-18.' Maybe you don't prepare as much mentally.
"The thing in men's volleyball is the competition is so tight," LaBarre added. "You only have so many programs. You don't have one or two good players on every team. You've got six or seven good players on every team. You've got to be focused or you'll be in trouble. That's a lesson we learned in (Friday's) match."'
This time, the Warriors appeared to be energetic from the outset, even though outside hitter José José Delgado was not available for the second consecutive match because of a throat infection. Delgado is an accurate passer and the team's most prolific attacker, averaging 4.33 kills per game.
Last night's key was the Warriors' improved passing. They were able to parlay the Tritons' best serves into high passes near the net. That gave Brian Beckwith enough space — and options — to set one of the country's fastest offenses.
In the Warriors' offensive system, Beckwith tries to place lead sets to already-in-motion outside attackers. The strategy is this: A quickly set ball can move faster than a double block.
Carere, left-side hitter Johnny Matt Bender and opposite attacker Lauri Hakala often faced single blocks. When the Tritons tried to double-up near the pins, Beckwith would set Dio Dante or LaBarre in the middle.
"Their offense was a little bit faster," Triton coach Kevin Ring said. "They really hurt us with how quick they were to the pins. That was the biggest factor."
UH's Beckwith said: "That first night, our passing was a little up and down. Tonight, the passers really settled down and gave (backup setter) Sean (Carney) and I the opportunity to do what we do best and really get the ball to our hitters. Our offense is so fast, and with all of the hitters we have on our team, who are you going to pick? When it's that quick to the outside, it's pretty tough."
Meanwhile, the Tritons had difficulty accurately passing the Warriors' serves. UH scored 40 points when it served; UCSD managed 15.
The Tritons' slow relays from passer to setter to attacker allowed the Warriors to construct their block. The Warriors had 11 blocks, including backup Jake Schkud's six in Game 3.
"I didn't even realize I had that many blocks," Schkud said. "When you play, you're in a zone. I was happy I had more blocks than kill attempts. It was good to beat out Dio (Dante). I have a little bragging rights right there."
Dante conceded: "He definitely plays hard. He deserves to play more, I think."
The Tritons did manage to keep plays alive with their gritty defense.
"Their defense is incredible," Beckwith said. "It just beats down on your ego when balls keep on coming back over and over. I give props to them."
But in the end, UCSD's Ring said: "We got out-played. That's the bottom line. It wasn't the energy. It was fundamentally we didn't serve and pass as well as Hawai'i did. Hawai'i played a great match."
UH has won all 35 matches in this series.
Reach Stephen Tsai at email@example.com.