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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, February 7, 2006

Delgado has been Jekyll & Hyde-like

By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

In a volleyball career peppered with comebacks, Hawai'i outside hitter José José Delgado has rebounded from a painful back condition and erratic play. Now Delgado faces what might be the unkindest cut of all.

"Look at what Dio did to my haircut," Delgado said of his buzz cut, teammate Dio Dante's creation. "He messed up. He used the wrong clip. He realized it when he made the first cut. He was like, 'Oops.' So he tried to make me feel better by saying, 'Ooh, you look good.' "

Dante, offering a chuckling apology, said: "I guess I used the wrong shaver. We used the No. 1 instead of the No. 3 on his head, and that's what happens. It does look good. José is a sexy beast. You can't make him look ugly."

It is on the court when Delgado's play has been either a beauty or a beast. He has started six matches, of which he was pulled in Game 1 three times. In matches in which he exits early, the Warriors are 0-3, with Delgado hitting .140 (19 kills, 12 errors, 50 swings).

When he survives the first game, the Warriors are 3-0 — all three-game sweeps — with Delgado hitting .417 (44 kills, nine errors, 84 swings).

"His success is all to him," setter Brian Beckwith said. "It's all a matter of how he thinks each night and how he prepares for each game."

Delgado said he is learning not to become frustrated if he struggles early.

"I think sometimes I get out of focus," he said. "I'm doing better with that. I'm feeling more comfortable. It's part of the game. I have to go out and relax and have fun and enjoy myself. I can't have negative things come into my mind."

While Delgado has been a consistently accurate passer, his offense was prone to slumps in past seasons. His goal is not only to jump high — he can touch about 11 feet 3 — but also to strike the volleyball high. He is most effective when he hits over the block, particularly on back-row attacks off pipe sets.

"I've been learning to reach the ball as high as possible," he said. "I've been told if I hit high, good things happen."

Delgado, a devoted weight-lifter, also is trying to maintain the strength in his arm swing. In a three-game sweep of UC Irvine, despite a team-high 17 kills, his right arm appeared to be dragging in the final game.

"I like being on the floor with José," floor captain Matt Carere said. "He plays with a lot of emotion. He really gives us a lot of fire whenever he's in or whenever he comes off the bench. If he starts in a slump, you know he's going to come out of it, given enough time."

The Warriors will rely heavily on Delgado for road matches against top-ranked Pepperdine on Thursday and Friday. Delgado's immediate replacement, Eric Kalima, still is recovering from shoulder and knee injuries suffered when he fell against a metal railing two weeks ago. Opposite hitter John Matt Bender, who has not played this season because of ligament damage in his left ankle, resumed practicing last week. He will not make this road trip, UH coach Mike Wilton said.

Reach Stephen Tsai at stsai@honoluluadvertiser.com.