UH dominates BYU, 30-14, 30-21, 30-21
|UH vs. Brigham Young photo gallery|
By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Stephen Tsai
The University of Hawai'i volleyball team used something old (efficient pass-and-serve game), something new (middle blocker Dio Dante's menacing serves) and something borrowed ("Beat BYU" towels from football fans) to leave Brigham Young very, very blue.
The Warriors dominated every phase in a 30-14, 30-21, 30-21 rout before 4,291 in the Stan Sheriff Center.
After improving to 22-4 overall and 18-3 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, the Warriors can earn the No. 1 seed in next week's league playoffs if they beat the Cougars in tonight's regular-season finale, and top-ranked UC-Irvine loses to UC Santa Barbara. "I thought Hawai'i played the most flawless match that I've seen this year," BYU coach Tom Peterson said. "We had no answer for them."
The Warriors' only damper was the health of setter Brian Beckwith, who crumpled to the court during a collision on the play before aloha ball. After the match, Beckwith was on crutches with what he described as a bone bruise to his left kneecap. He will undergo X-rays today.
"There's no tear," Beckwith insisted. "I felt no pop. I'm going to stay optimistic, keep the swelling down, ice it and be ready to beat down on some Cougars."
Backup setter Sean Carney said: "He'll be fine. He landed on it the wrong way. He's a tough kid."
The Warriors proved to be too much against their long-time tormentors. The Cougars had won the previous six matches between the teams. They also entered with more experience — 22-year-old freshman Yosleyder Cala was a member of Cuba's national team; middle blocker Victor Batista, 26, represented the Dominican Republic in international competition — and a reputation for being physical and athletic.
But the Cougars were reminded of volleyball's most basic lesson: A superior pass-and-serve game trumps athletic ability.
"Their ball-control was absolutely incredible," Peterson said. "We were out of system almost every single play. Kudos to them."
The Warriors set the tone with their serves. In Game 1, the Warriors scored 17 points on their 30 serves; the Cougars managed a single point on 14 serves. For the match, the Warriors scored 43 points on serves; the Cougars finished with 10.
Outside hitter José José Delgado and Dante each served five points in consecutive rotations to extend the Warriors' lead to 25-11 in the Game 1. Dante, who had struggled with his serving accuracy most of the season, slammed two aces off his jump serve.
"We've been focusing a lot on serve-and-pass this week, and I guess it paid off," Dante said. "I was figuring, when I'm taking something off of it, that's when I miss serves. I decided I might as well just hit it hard. It worked out nicely for me."
Delgado said: "He was amazing. He's a real hard worker. He comes early to practice and stays late. He's improved a lot. I'm really proud of him."
UH's serves led to BYU's erratic passes and then to scrambling sets.
Batista, who goes by the nickname "Bonesaw," was bone dry, finishing with five kills (three errors) and as many net violations (one) as blocks.
Cala, who entered averaging a team-high 4.02 kills per game, had seven kills and six errors. He did not blame his inefficiency on a sore right shoulder. Instead, Peterson said the Cougars were "out of system," making it difficult to set Cala in one-on-one situations.
"It's not our strength at all to set an out-of-system play," Peterson said.
Cala said: "That's the way it is. I'm happy when I get a chance to hit the ball."
Peterson, with a forgetful safecracker's desperation, tried to find combinations. He didn't start Ivan Perez, the Cougars' second-leading hitter, in Game 1, and Cala was not in the lineup at the start of Game 2. Setter Rob Neilson was pulled twice.
"He's been up and down," Peterson said of Neilson. "He's been kind of tweaked, actually, (in) his knees, things here and there. It doesn't matter. You're into the season. Everybody else is. You have to gear it up and get better."
Peterson added: "We've been questioning ourselves. Who should be in the lineup? Who should be doing what? ... I think it's very unfortunate it comes down to the end of the season when that happens. You really question yourself when it happens. ... It's more team cohesion than anything else. It's not like we're bickering. We're trying to find something that clicks."
Meanwhile, the Warriors could do little wrong. Opposite attacker Lauri Hakala's bump was mishandled by Cala. Later, Cala, with no blocker in front, slipped on the dry Teraflex court before making a swing.
Perez, open on the left side, launched a cross-court shot that sailed over the UH reserves on the sideline and into the crowd. The fans, imitating the Warriors' raised arms signaling "no touch," inadvertently started a wave. And so it went.
"We did some good playing, but I think we got some good breaks," UH coach Mike Wilton said. "In Game 1, there were a lot of good things that happened, and we were kind of lucky. We'll take 'em."
Matt Carere, UH's floor captain, said the Warriors were energetic during warmups.
"We played a few teams in the past we didn't give enough credit coming in," Carere said. "We were well prepared for (the Cougars) because we know how strong and talented they are. Tonight, we were ready for them. We showed how well we can play when we apply ourselves."
Even the Cougars were impressed.
"If you were a UH fan, it was absolutely fun to watch," Peterson said. "We couldn't put a match together to make it even a decent match."
Reach Stephen Tsai at email@example.com.