Warriors sweep No. 4 UC Irvine
By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Stephen Tsai
Can somebody catch the license number of the University of Hawai'i volleyball roller coaster?
Two nights after being ousted in three games, the seventh-ranked Warriors rebounded to sweep No. 4 UC Irvine, 30-21, 30-22, 34-32.
"That was really us out there," UH opposite hitter Lauri Hakala insisted. "On Wednesday, I don't know who was playing in the 'Hawai'i' uniforms."
It was fitting that left-side hitter José José Delgado, who is as talented as he is perplexing, would lead the way, slamming 17 kills, assisting on two blocks and easily passing 18 serves without an error. "He had a real nice match," UH coach Mike Wilton said.
Such flashes — by Delgado, a fifth-year senior, and the Warriors — have been an early-season tease. When Delgado is in a groove, he is a multi-task weapon. But in three of his starts, including Wednesday's, he was pulled in the first game because of inconsistency.
"I can't get frustrated," Delgado said. "I'm on a mission to be a leader of this team."
During warmups, Delgado felt "loose. I felt comfortable." In Game 1, when he pounded eight kills (without an error) and hit .615, "I was feeling it."
While Delgado relied on his usual scoring spots — from the middle of the back row off pipe sets and the left corner off a three-step takeoff — he also created points on jousts and roll shots. In Game 1, he parlayed Matt Carere's shanked pass into a laser off Irvine's Brian Thornton. On another play, he looped a shot over a triple block.
Delgado appeared to feed off the chanting of his name, a chorus led by Chad Ching, the brother of former Warrior Tony Ching.
"Those are my friends," Delgado said, smiling at the memory. "They make me play harder."
In the rematch, the Warriors were able to solve their problems in the serve-and-pass phase. They scored 36 points on plays initiated by their serves; the Anteaters had 17 points when they served.
UH setter Brian Beckwith's jump serves, launched with a grunt, led to 11 points. "I was getting good tosses," he said. "If I have a good toss, I can take a good grip."
Asked about his grunt, Beckwith said, "I learned it from my future wife, Maria Sharapova."
Hakala, who contributed 12 kills, said: "We decided to serve tough. Although we missed serves (14 errors), we were able to win. I'd say the risk was good."
The Anteaters, meanwhile, seemingly struggled from "Hawai'i Pono'i." They missed their first swing — with nothing but open space in front — "and the next thing you know it's 5(-1)," Irvine coach John Speraw said. "They got going and, man, it's tough."
Their best attacker, Matt Webber, could not find his accuracy. In Game 1, he scored more points for UH — four errors on attacks and one on a serve — than he produced. By the end of Game 2, Webber had three kills and eight errors in 16 swings.
"I just didn't bring my game," said Webber, who finished with nine kills and hit .000. "I screwed up. (Brian) Thornton was giving me awesome sets. I just didn't play well. I don't know what it was. I just wasn't in the groove."
Speraw added: "There are some tough lessons to be learned from this league. The hard one we learned tonight is you'd better be ready to go with 100 percent effort from the very first serve."
Not all of the Anteaters' woes were self-inflicted. Wilton decided to start 6-foot-9 Mauli'a LaBarre in an attempt to discourage the Anteaters' quick attack. "And he did," Wilton said.
The Warriors, who had difficulty with the Anteaters' jump-float serves on Wednesday, passed accurately in the rematch. The Anteaters returned to jump serves early in the match.
Of the improved play, Beckwith said, "That's the team you're going to see when we bring our ball-control with us to the gym."
He added: "We definitely sent a message that we can bounce back and adjust like any of the other good teams. Even though we're No. 7, we showed we can step it up and be in the top five."
Reach Stephen Tsai at email@example.com.