Dante will play in pain as Hawai'i hits the road
By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Stephen Tsai
Despite a broken pinkie on his right (swinging) hand, University of Hawai'i volleyball player Dio Dante yesterday practiced and declared himself ready for the coming road trip.
"It's sore, and it's always in the back of my mind, but it's no big deal," said Dante, a 6-foot-8 middle blocker who is second nationally in blocks with 1.66 per game. "It's a little obstacle I have to overcome."
Dante suffered the injury during a scrimmage near the end of Wednesday's practice.
X-rays showed a fractured distal phalange (the area just below the nail), an injury similar to the one he suffered as a second-year freshman.
He was fitted for a splint, with padding on the front and back of his pinkie. His right pinkie and ring finger then were taped together. The wrapping allows him to do everything but work as a typist. "I could," he protested. "Don't ruin my chances."
Dante said he will not incur further injury by playing.
"It's already damaged," he said. "The damage isn't going to get worse. I have to cope with it, deal with it."
Dante said the injury still allows him to spike. On kill attempts, the volleyball is struck mostly on the palm.
"At least (the fracture) is farther out on the extremity," Dante said. "I can still make contact with the ball. It's still going to hurt. If it was farther down, it would hurt a lot more and I'd really have to tape it up and it would be really bulky."
Still, Dante's primary job is to block, and he grimaced each time a sizzling shot nicked the tip of his right pinkie.
"Obviously, it hurts a lot," setter Brian Beckwith said. "He's battling to get past that. It's going to be tough the first couple of practices to get used to having a hurt finger. He's not going to give up. He's always playing hard. Whether that thing is falling off, he'll still play, even if he has to tape it on."
Dante has been instrumental during the Warriors' 11-match winning streak, collaborating with corner blockers to narrow opponents' attack lanes.
"He's getting better all of the time," UH coach Mike Wilton said. "To be a good blocker, there's a lot of reading and probability involved. He does a good job of reading. Ninety percent of it is reading."
The other starting middle is Mauli'a LaBarre.
Kyle Klinger, a reserve middle, did not attend yesterday's practice. On Tuesday, he suffered a broken bone in the big toe of his right foot.
Klinger's injury will not require surgery, although it is not known when he will be able to play again. Wilton said there is a possibility Klinger might miss the rest of the season.
Jake Schkud, a converted outside hitter, had ascended to top backup middle blocker before Klinger's injury. But at an optimistically listed 6 feet 4, Schkud has difficulty portraying an upcoming opponent's middle blocker in practices.
The past two days, 6-foot-8 Matt "Dragon" Rawson has served as the middle blocker for the scout team.
"Dragon is doing a great job," Dante said.
But Rawson is redshirting as a freshman this year, and will not travel with the Warriors. Wilton said he will not replace Klinger on the travel roster for the six-day trip, which begins with tomorrow's match against Pacific.
"It is what it is," Wilton said of his roster situation.
Wilton said he is not concerned about the duration of this trip to Northern California, which features two matches each against Pacific and Stanford. "The last one was six days," Wilton said, noting the Warriors went 4-0. "They played well against USC and Northridge."
Beckwith said: "It's going to be another battle for us with traveling and time change and the weather change. It's going to be drier and colder."
Pacific's Spanos Center has earned the nickname of "Ice Dome."
"I hear the gym is pretty cold," Beckwith said. "It's all concrete. It's an icebox. It's going to take a lot of good physical warmup for those matches against Pacific. We're going to have to take care of ourselves. These road trips can be brutal on our health as far as the cold and getting sick."
But opposite attacker Lauri Hakala dismissed such concerns.
"We're playing indoors," he said. "I don't care about the cold. It won't bother me. I've never been there, but I'm sure it won't have any impact."
Then again, Hakala was raised in Finland. As a member of the Finnish army, he trained in the Arctic Circle.
The Warriors will practice this morning for an hour.
Their nonstop flight to Sacramento departs this afternoon. They will arrive in Stockton late tonight.
Wilton said he is considering conducting a serve-and-pass session in Spanos tomorrow morning.
This is the Warriors' final road trip of the regular season. This time, they will be on the road during spring break, free from worrying about missing classes and tests.
"They're always good at maintaining their focus," Wilton said. "They know we expect them to be responsible."
Dante said: "We're looking forward to this road trip. It's going to be cold up there, but it should be a good, successful trip for us."
Reach Stephen Tsai at firstname.lastname@example.org.