Warriors roll past Loyola in four games
|UH vs. Loyola photo gallery|
By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Stephen Tsai
The University of Hawai'i volleyball team's blind date ended happily last night.
The Warriors endured a prolonged ice-breaking stage to defeat Loyola University Chicago, 32-34, 30-21, 30-25, 30-24 in the Stan Sheriff Center.
In winning their 10th in a row, the third-ranked Warriors improved to 14-4.
The No. 10 Ramblers, who lead the Midwest Intercollegiate Volleyball Association, fell to 16-5.
"We had no film (of the Ramblers) and no scouting report," UH setter Brian Beckwith said. "We're fortunate to squeak out one."
UH coach Mike Wilton said: "I knew they were good, but not exactly because I hadn't seen them in forever. We didn't know anything about them at all."
The Ramblers also had limited pre-match knowledge of the Warriors. Ohio State, also a MIVA member, lost in three games to UH in the Outrigger Invitational.
"That was back in January," Loyola coach Shane Davis said. "A lot has changed. It was a learn-as-you-go match."
Beckwith and UH backup middle blocker Jake Schkud were on the same Junior National team as Loyola middle James Grunst last summer. Davis was an assistant coach.
"We were going off based on what we knew (from the summer) and grapevine stuff," Beckwith said. "We had to make in-game adjustments."
The Warriors learned quickly that opposite attacker Chris Kozlarek, who uncoils a left-handed swing off a full-body motion, can launch powerful angle and line shots, and that Grunst is nearly unstoppable when teeing off on quick sets.
"If they didn't have anything on us, they sure were standing in the right spots a lot," Wilton said. "I think some of our guys got off to bad starts."
The Warriors, playing tentatively early, gave away seven points on service errors in Game 1, including two by opposite attacker Lauri Hakala.
"At the beginning, we were kind of careful, I'd say," Hakala said of UH's approach to serves. "If you try to be too careful, good things don't follow. You don't have confidence."
That all changed in Game 2 — in part because of outside hitter José José Delgado's clapping encouragement, in part because the Warriors began to rip away on their serves.
The Warriors scored 14 points on their 29 serves in Game 2. They scored seven points on Hakala's 10 serves in that game.
The Warriors' disruptive serves induced inaccurate passes. Loyola libero John Thuet eventually was pulled after he repeatedly placed passes near the 3-meter line, forcing Brian Guntli to make long sets.
That allowed the Warriors to plant their block. Dio Dante participated in 10 of the Warriors' 13 blocks.
"Practice makes perfect, and we're working on it a lot in practice," Dante said. "Coach is doing a good job of coaching me and making sure my footwork is right."
Dante also has benefitted from his wing blockers, usually Beckwith, Delgado or Matt Carere. The wing blockers take away the line, forcing hitters to cut shots.
"When they're blocking well, it makes my job easier," Dante said. "I owe it all to them."
The Warriors also adjusted to the Ramblers' equal balance of jump and float servers. In particular, the float servers — Guntli, Corey Kloos and Chris Nelson — created problems with placements to the sidelines.
"We had to stop worrying about what they were bringing, and instead worry about how we were playing," UH libero Alfee Reft said. "When we did that, we were fine."
That opened the way for Beckwith to distribute sets to Delgado (19 kills), Carere (15 kills) and Hakala (13 kills) on the outside, and 6-foot-9 Mauli'a LaBarre in the middle. LaBarre finished with 13 kills (one error) in 16 swings.
"When we're in system, it makes it easy," LaBarre said.
Beckwith added: "Mau was a hot hand. He was going up early. He wasn't being stopped. So why stop setting him?"
Kozlarek and Grunst each had 13 kills for the Ramblers.
After the match, the Warriors reflected on the one that didn't get away.
"A win is a win," Reft said. "We'll take it. But we're not going to take it without learning anything from it. The learning curve has to got to be there."
LaBarre said that during Game 2, "We realized we think we're the better team. 'We're in our house. We're on a roll here. We're playing really well lately. We want to keep the momentum going.' It registered we have to step it up and play our game and make sure we take care of the ball on our side of the court. I think our guys started to realize it as the (match) went on."
Two matches involving former UH players will precede tonight's 7 o'clock rematch.
The first alumni match will begin at 4 p.m.
Reach Stephen Tsai at email@example.com.