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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, January 6, 2006

UH's Bender out at least 4 weeks with ankle injury

By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer


WHAT: Exhibition matches.

WHO: Hawai'i vs. Douglas (Canada)

WHEN: 7:05 p.m. today and tomorrow

WHERE: Stan Sheriff Center

TICKETS: $6 (lower bowl), $4 (upper bowl), $3 (students)



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Opposite hitter Matt Bender, the University of Hawai'i volleyball team's top attacker, is expected to miss at least four weeks of play after suffering an injury to his left ankle during Tuesday's practice.

"It's a bum deal for him, as it is for us," UH coach Mike Wilton said. "He's paid a lot of time. He's paid a lot of dues. It's a tough deal."

Bender, a fifth-year senior from Arizona, was on crutches yesterday, and his left ankle was supported by heavy wrapping and a boot brace.

He was scheduled to undergo a magnetic resonance imaging, a procedure in which magnetic fields are used to create a picture of the body's interior. The MRI results will be reviewed today.

The injury has been classified as a "severe sprain," meaning there is at least a partial ligament tear. Such an injury requires at least four weeks of non-surgical rehabilitation.

If the left ankle is dislocated, Bender probably will need to undergo surgery.

"It all depends on the MRI," said Wilton, who believes Bender's left ankle is dislocated. "I saw him pop it back in."

Bender said he suffered the injury when he landed awkwardly during Tuesday's practice.

"It's frustrating," said Bender, who averaged 3.55 kills per game last season. "I'm a firm believer that things happen for a reason. I suppose there's a reason for this. Maybe I don't know what it is, but I definitely believe there's a reason."

Matt Carere, UH's floor captain and Bender's roommate, said: "He's trying to be very positive. He's an essential player and an essential team member. If we can't have him on the court, he'll be our motivation."

The position of opposite hitter is three rotation spots from the center, and attacks mostly from the right side. Wilton said Carere, Lauri Hakala, Jose Jose Delgado or Jake Schkud will move from the left side to replace Bender for tonight's exhibition match against Douglas of Canada.

For most teams, the best passers, behind the libero, are left-side hitters. In the Warriors' schemes, the opposite hitter also is required to pass accurately. Hakala, Delgado and Carere are skilled passers.

Hakala, a second-year junior from Finland, has the most experience as a right-side attacker.

"I practice on both sides," he said.

Carere, a senior, is considered to be the best passer among the candidates. Delgado, who played on UH's 2002 NCAA final four team, has the most experience. Schkud has the most powerful swing.

"It's a bummer (Bender) is not here," setter Brian Beckwith said. The injury "happened early, and hopefully he can make a quick recovery. He's a veteran hitter, and it's a tough loss. But I have confidence in the other guys. We've got some depth this year. We'll easily bounce back from this."

Wilton said he won't announce a lineup until pre-match warmups.

But Beckwith, libero Alfee Reft and middle blockers Dio Dante and Mauli'a LaBarre are expected to start.

Eric Kalima, a converted libero, and Carere will likely fill two of the openings at opposite hitter and the two left-side positions.

Wilton said the Warriors have had impressive practices this week after a three-week break for the holidays.

"We're rounding into form," Wilton said. "We're getting better each day."

Beckwith said the exhibitions will prepare the Warriors for next week's season-opening road matches against UC Santa Barbara.

"We want to get used to the game environment again, the whole bells and whistles," Beckwith said. "We want to get back into the groove. We want to get off the last bits of rust before we head off to Santa Barbara."

Reach Stephen Tsai at stsai@honoluluadvertiser.com.