Warriors dominate in volleyball sweep
By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Stephen Tsai
For the University of Hawai'i volleyball team that had everything last night, there was tempered enthusiasm in opening with a 30-13, 30-17, 30-24 exhibition victory over Douglas College of Canada.
The Warriors dominated all phases during a 74-minute match in which they had advantages in size, depth, experience and talent.
"This was not our best performance," said Lauri Hakala, who started at opposite hitter in place of injured Matt Bender. "We have the ability to play so much better. I'm glad we were able to finish it in three (games)."
Douglas, located outside of Vancouver, is a two-year school that does not offer volleyball scholarships.
Setter Ryan Brant said the Royals' average home attendance is "probably like 15, 16 people."
The Royals traveled from their hotel in two vans, one packed snugly with two players crouched cross-legged in the storage area.
Their tallest player, 6-foot-6 right-side hitter Jay Kube, stood eyeball-to-eyeball with UH setter Brian Beckwith.
Although their season began in October, the Royals, sporting a fresh coat of sunburn, played tentatively. "We were probably doing a little too many activities in Hawai'i," Brant said. "A little too much sun, maybe."
All of which turned the Stan Sheriff Center into a tourist trap. The Warriors' new hurry-up offense — in which the attackers are in motion before the set is launched — was a Royal pain.
The Warriors committed eight attack errors, including one in Game 1, during which they hit .640. For the match, every UH outside attacker hit better than .330, led by Eric Kalima's .727. Kalima, a converted libero, is playing outside hitter for the first time since middle school.
By the middle of the second game, the Warriors had overhauled the lineup. José José Delgado, a fifth-year senior, slammed a match-high 10 kills in 14 loud swings. Most came on feeds from backup setter Sean Carney, a second-year freshman from Iolani School.
"Sean Carney put the ball in the right spot all of the time," Delgado said. "He was amazing. He was letting me hit one-on-one every time."
Carney said: "We're always playing together, whether it's on the beach or on the court. We can read each other."
The Warriors' towering double block, meanwhile, reduced the Royals' offense to a six-man scramble. The Royals resorted to trying to blast away shots from the back row.
In the first game, the Royals had three kills in 24 swings, and scored only three points in plays initiated by their 15 serves.
In Game 2, the Royals had eight kills in 25 swings.
Despite the one-sided outcome, the Warriors were finicky in their self-assessment.
For instance, the Warriors relinquished a point when they opened Game 3 in the wrong rotation order.
"It wasn't as smooth as we'd have liked it to be," libero Alfee Reft said. "But it was our first match. We need to play to our standards and run like a machine."
UH coach Mike Wilton also gave mixed reviews to the team's new aggressive approach to serving. Instead of a balance of jump and float servers, five of the starters used jump serves. Kalima parlayed his power serves into four of the Warriors' eight aces.
But the Warriors gave away 17 points on service errors. Wilton had set a serving-accuracy goal of 90 percent. Last night, the Warriors kept 80 percent of their serves (69 of 86) in play.
"We were a long way from our goal," Wilton said. "We need to work on that."
Wilton said the lineup still is not settled. Kyle Klinger overtook senior Mauli'a LaBarre this week to earn a start at middle blocker.
"Klinger emerged," Wilton said. "We'll see what happens."
And while Hakala was functional as Bender's replacement, the opposite-hitter position "is still a big question mark," Wilton said. "Lauri needs to remember he has a big arm. He has a cannon. He needs to fire it. He got a little cutesy out there. He knows that. He'll get better."
Hakala said: "The coach is absolutely right. I need to hit it hard all of the time."
Wilton said Bender, who was diagnosed with torn ligaments in his dislocated left ankle, might resume practicing in five weeks. Bender's left foot was fitted for a cast yesterday.
"We wish Bender the best," Beckwith said. "We miss him, but we have guys ready to step in and seize opportunities. We have a lot of depth. That's going to help a lot in the meat of our season, where we can switch it up and show different sides."
Left-side hitter Matt Carere said: "We were able to introduce new guys. Every guy got an opportunity. There are a few things we can work on, but we'll worry about that later."
Reach Stephen Tsai at email@example.com.