Warriors sweep USC
The University of Hawai'i men's volleyball team, to be sure, will never leave home without its serve-and-pass game.
Relying on the most basic of volleyball skills, the Warriors outplayed Southern California, 30-28, 30-20, 31-29, last night in North Gym on USC's Los Angeles campus.
The Warriors won their seventh in a row, a streak that started with a road victory over Pepperdine three weeks ago and extended with the completion of this four-matches-in-five-days trip. The Warriors return to Honolulu today with records of 11-4 overall and 9-3 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation.
The Trojans, who lost their 11th in a row in this series, fell to 8-11 and 5-9. They lost in four games to UH on Monday night.
"I think the better team won," USC coach Turhan Douglas said. "We fought hard, and they fought hard, but they were a little more consistent with their serves and passes than we were, and that was that."
The Warriors scored 32 points on plays initiated by their serves. The Trojans scored 21 points when they served. Forty of the Trojans' 57 rotations lasted only one serve.
"I think if we were able to play more than one ball in a row, it could have turned out differently in a game or two," Douglas said. "Serving was a problem for us. And, for my experience, the teams that serve really well come out on top. All of the games we've won this year, we've served really well. We have a lot of work to do."
Not all of USC's problems were self-inflicted. UH libero Alfee Reft and outside hitters José José Delgado and Matt Carere passed 59 serves with only two errors, and one of those mistakes should not have been credited to a player.
The accurate passes allowed setter Brian Beckwith to run the Warriors' quick offense efficiently. Opposite attacker Lauri Hakala had 16 kills and seven blocks.
Carere, despite going scoreless in the first game, finished with 11 kills.
Delgado added 10 kills, the ninth consecutive match he has scored in double figures.
In the meantime, the Warriors' powerful serves kept USC from getting into its offensive system. About 30 percent of USC's swings — 30 of 101 — resulted in errors and UH points.
The Warriors also were able to plant their block. When they weren't rejecting shots — they had 14.5 blocks — they were intimidating the USC attackers into hitting wide.
"I think everybody played well," UH coach Mike Wilton said. "We had a couple of moments when we made mistakes we wouldn't have liked to have made. But we distributed the ball well, the outside hitters hit respectably, we blocked some balls and played some good team defense. We stayed pretty focused, I thought."
Wilton said the Warriors also drew inspiration from the hecklers in compact North Gym, the smallest in the MPSF.
"There was a lot of energy in the gym," Wilton said. "That was helpful. There were a lot of USC students who were — shall we say — 'kibitzing' a lot. Actually, that was good."
It also appears the Warriors have settled into their roles. They have used the same lineup for nine consecutive matches, during which they are 8-1.
"Everyone is really feeling good about the team," said Sean Carney, one of UH's designated servers. "There's a lot less individual focus and more of the team aspect. That helps a lot. Everyone is willing to do whatever it takes to make our team succeed. We've really grown into that."
The Warriors will resume practicing Friday.
Their next matches are against UCLA on March 10-11 in the Stan Sheriff Center.