It's time to serve notice for UCLA, UH
By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Stephen Tsai
For UCLA coach Al Scates, nothing douses golf plans like a competitive playoff volleyball match.
Scates left behind his golf clubs and sunscreen for the Bruins' trip to paradise to play Hawai'i in tomorrow's quarterfinal match of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation volleyball tournament in the Stan Sheriff Center.
Recreational plans? "Of course not," Scates said. "Not this trip."
In years past, Scates would sneak in a round of golf. "It's been a while," he said. "Ever since Hawai'i (became) good, I stopped playing golf on game day. It's been a long, long time. It was probably before Mike Wilton was hired (as UH coach in 1992)."
Scates and his staff studied UH videotapes late into last night. "We've got enough tape," he said.
How much is enough? "We've got all we need," he insisted.
While the MPSF has a video-exchange program between the teams, "I'm not going to tell you where we get all of our tapes," Scates said to a reporter. "I'm not telling."
He said he will review a preliminary game plan during this morning's 5 1/2-hour flight from Los Angeles.
The Bruins will practice in the Sheriff Center tonight. Scates said he closes practices to fans and media when the Bruins practice in Hawai'i and Brigham Young. He said the Bruins do not practice in any other opposing team's gyms during road trips.
Scates said the Bruins had an efficient practice yesterday afternoon in Los Angeles. Matt Wade, a freshman who has started the past eight matches, and Dennis Gonzalez, a senior who has recovered from a knee injury suffered in Hawai'i last month, received an equal amount of work at setter. Scates said both will play against UH, although "most likely Wade will start the first game. He's been starting, that's why."
In recent matches, Scates noted, Wade and Gonzalez have had nearly identical success in two key areas for a setter: the Bruins' hitting percentage and block efficiency.
Scates said the Bruins' health is not an issue. Outside hitter Sean O'Malley did not practice yesterday because of a pinched nerve in his neck and numbness in his right hand. Scates said O'Malley, a freshman, is on the 13-player travel roster.
"He hasn't played in a while," Scates said of O'Malley. "All of the (outside) hitters are playing really well. He's developing. He's still getting better, even though he hasn't been playing."
The Warriors are enjoying improved health. Reserve middle blocker Kyle Klinger is set to resume practicing today. He has recovered from a broken big toe.
Klinger was a starter early in the season. Since senior Mauli'a LaBarre moved into the starting lineup Jan. 27, the Warriors have won 20 of 21 matches, closing the regular season with a school-record 19 consecutive victories.
UH setter Brian Beckwith is coping with a bone bruise just below his right kneecap.
Beckwith suffered the injury on the next-to-last play of last Friday's match against BYU. He played in the following night's rematch.
"X-rays were negative," he said. "I have a bone bruise. It's painful. I have to keep the swelling down. I ice it every day."
Before the second BYU match, Beckwith said, he took an Advil. During the match, he said, "I tried to keep it warm, keep it loose. The adrenaline does help it a lot. Immediately after the (match), I put ice on it to keep the swelling down. If I take care of it, I should be OK."
The Warriors have maintained their usual schedule leading to this match. They worked exclusively on serve-and-pass drills Tuesday. They expanded their workouts Wednesday and yesterday. Today "we'll taper off," UH coach Mike Wilton said.
The routine has kept the Warriors focused on themselves and away from the so-called UCLA mystique.
The Bruins have won 18 national championships under Scates, the most influential coach in the history of men's college volleyball. Scates is credited with designing the blueprints for the modern quick-attack offense.
The thing is, none of the Warrior starters is a history major. And the Warriors swept last month's two-match series between the teams in Hawai'i.
"The (UCLA) legacy is there, of course, but we feel we're going to do a good job, especially here in the Islands," Beckwith said. "They've been here a lot this year. They've been here a lot in the past. They're used to playing here. We can expect only the best from every team, especially now in the playoffs. But we think we're a great team. Our season was not a fluke. We don't want to let that hard work go to waste."
UH libero Alfee Reft added: "At this point, you have to believe in your team. (The Bruins) are a good team, you can't deny that, and you can't overlook them. But we know we can play as well. If we believe in that, if we trust in what we've been doing all season, then we'll go out and do well."
Reach Stephen Tsai at email@example.com.