Warriors close in on playoffs
By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Stephen Tsai
University of Hawai'i volleyball coach Mike Wilton is the Most Happy Fella.
The Warriors have won 11 in a row, a surge that started before Valentine's Day, and 12 of 13 since settling on a lineup.
The Warriors are ranked third nationally in both polls and second in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, the strongest of college volleyball's three leagues.
A sweep of Pacific tonight and Monday would help the Warriors (15-4 overall, 11-3 in MPSF) clinch a playoff berth with three weekends left in the regular season.
Most of all, Wilton said, "I look forward to each and every day. It's important to live in the moment and enjoy the moment."
While the Warriors have tried to adhere to that credo, they often sneak peeks at the standings. UH trails No. 1 UC Irvine (14-2).
"Of course, you monitor," libero Alfee Reft said of the Anteaters' matches. "You want to know. It's natural. You can't control what they're going to do, but you can monitor them."
Middle blocker Dio Dante said: "We hope they lose."
But Wilton said: "It's pointless to worry about others. Some people can recite everybody's won-loss record. I can't."
Pacific, with one senior, is rebuilding. Outside hitter Pekka Seppanen of Finland is the only Tiger to play in every game this season. He is averaging a team-high 3.19 kills per game.
The Warriors will enter short-handed. Reserve middle blocker Kyle Klinger will miss the trip because of a broken big toe on his right foot.
Dante has a broken bone in the tip of his right pinkie, but will play. "It's broken, it hurts and it's ugly," Dante said. "It's freakin' ugly, but I'll work through it."
Matt Bender, the top reserve at the three outside positions, did not practice Wednesday because of a "tired" right shoulder. He is fit to play in tonight's match.
PILLOWS ARE A MUST FOR BECKWITH ON ROAD TRIPS
Traveling is never easy, which is why it is essential to pack some comfort items.
UH setter Brian Beckwith doesn't carry hair-care products or cameras.
Outside hitter Matt Carere usually takes a photo of each arena, and Beckwith said middle blocker Jake Schkud "is the life documenter. If I need to see pictures, I'll call Jake."
For this four-matches-in-six-days trip, Beckwith made sure he didn't leave home without:
"I usually bring a couple of pairs," he said. "I like to sleep in them. I like to obviously swim in them. There's always board shorts for a possible jacuzzi or pool at the hotel."
"It usually lasts the whole flight, which isn't bad," he said. "It's loaded with a bunch of reggae. I like the island reggae. It keeps me relaxed and reminds me of here. It puts a smile on my face."
He said he listens to Steel Pulse, Catch A Fire, Natural Vibes, Gregory Isaacs and Don Carlos.
"I like to follow the WCT when it's going on, and a lot of the surf magazines have a lot of articles on the WCT," he said.
"I am the airplane sleeper," he said. "The traveling is tough because of the seats. That's why I bring tons of pillows. Neck pillow. Back pillow. Another egg pillow. All of the pillows they give you on the airplane. I build a nest in the airplane with my pillows."
"It's bright pink," he said. "It says 'Volleyball Princess' on it, I swear. I got them from a friend because I always sleep on planes. They help. And if you've got something over your eyes, the stewardess won't bother you."
Asked if he was worried about teammates playing gags on him while he sleeps, Beckwith said: "Nope. I'm that guy who does it to other people."
Reach Stephen Tsai at firstname.lastname@example.org.