UH sweeps UCLA for ninth win in row
By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Stephen Tsai
Scratching a 20-year itch, the University of Hawai'i volleyball team completed a sweep of a two-match series against UCLA with last night's 30-24, 30-23, 30-28 victory before 3,821 in the Stan Sheriff Center.
UCLA, which has won 18 national titles under coach Al Scates, had dominated the rivalry. This time, the Warriors made all the right moves — and counter moves — to win their ninth in a row and improve to 13-4 overall and 11-3 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation.
"This is huge for us," UH libero Alfee Reft said.
It did not diminish the Warriors' celebration that the Bruins, who fell to 12-11 and 5-9, were forced to play three freshmen, including setter Matt Wade. The Bruins' floor leader, setter Dennis Gonzalez, suffered a sprained left ankle in Friday's match, an injury that could keep him from playing for at least another week.
"If they put six 12-year-olds on the court, and they're wearing UCLA emblems, they're gonna be a good team, and they're gonna play hard and they're gonna be well coached," UH setter Brian Beckwith said. "They're UCLA."
UH outside hitter Matt Carere added: "They have a great system. A lot of great players want to go there because it's UCLA. They always play tough, and they were good tonight. But we one-upped them."
The Warriors were able to solve the Bruins' revolving lineups — they used a different one for each game — and evolving strategies. The Bruins opened with a power game focusing on perimeter attackers Damien Scott, Paul George and Steve Klosterman.
By Game 3, the Bruins, adjusting to Wade's high but slow sets, opted for a taller attack, inserting 6-foot-9 outside hitter Sean O'Malley and 6-7 middle Jamie Diefenbach into the lineup. They also changed the serving techniques of two of their players.
The Bruins led by as much as 22-18 in the third game before the Warriors, behind Beckwith's crafty decisions, began to respond.
In Friday's match, Beckwith repeatedly fed pipe sets to José José Delgado in the middle of the back row. Off a running takeoff, Delgado had the option of slamming spikes through the gaps or rolling shots over the block. After a night of studying videotapes of Delgado, the Bruins decided to bunch up the defense in anticipation of pipe attacks.
"They didn't set the pipe as much as the first time we played them," Wade said. "It took us out of our game. We were still bunching. The lack of pipe setting, it opened the way for them to bang (spikes down) the line on us. We weren't able to get out there on the pin."
With spy-versus-spy mentality, Beckwith thought he knew what the Bruins thought they knew. "We tried to keep them guessing," Beckwith said. "With these back-to-back matches, the scouting can be so right on sometimes. They almost know where I'm going to set before I do. I took the liberty of scouting myself and changing my game. Not so much to the point where my offense was different, but to where my situational thinking was different. A hitter has to make the right shots, and I have to make the right decisions."
On consecutive plays in Game 3, Beckwith looked one way and set the other. The Bruins learned their block could not out-race a quick low set.
Lauri Hakala hammered 16 kills for UH, and Carere added 12. Delgado, hitting mostly from the left side, had 11 kills.
The key, UCLA's Scates said, is "Hawai'i has the right offense for its personnel. The nice thing is they do so well in transition. When they dig a ball, it's a nice high dig, and somebody can set and somebody can take a quality swing. If you look at the stats, you can say, 'Oh, boy, we out-dug them by nine digs.' But we didn't get as many quality swings as they did because they had better ball-control. They were getting some quality transition sets."
UH coach Mike Wilton said the intensity of the match left the Warriors spent.
"I thought we got emotionally drained," Wilton said. "I looked up at Brian (Beckwith) in Game 3, and he looked really drawn. Usually, he's aggressive out there. We fought through that."
Reach Stephen Tsai at firstname.lastname@example.org.