Warriors focusing on Tritons
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
"Playoffs" has become one of those taboo words around the University of Hawai'i men's volleyball team.
The Warriors know the playoffs are at stake when they host UC San Diego tonight and tomorrow. They just don't like talking about it.
"You guys (in the media) write about it, and the fans talk about it, so everybody knows what's going on," head coach Charlie Wade said. "But we haven't really talked about it here as a team. Talking about it isn't going to make it happen. We have to go out and win some games to make it happen."
Hawai'i is 15-8 and in fifth place in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation at 11-7. If UH wins tonight and tomorrow, it will clinch a spot in the eight-team MPSF playoffs.
"It would be big," Wade said. "Making the MPSF playoffs is like making it to a NCAA regional for basketball."
Hawai'i did not qualify for the MPSF playoffs in 2008 and '09.
Hawai'i will close the conference season with road matches at UC Santa Barbara, April 16 and 17. If the Warriors can finish in the top four of the standings at the end of the regular season, they will host a first-round match in the MPSF playoffs.
"A lot of people might say it's pressure, but we just have to play our game," junior setter Nejc Zemljak said.
UCSD is 8-15 overall and in 11th place in the MPSF at 4-12. Among the Tritons' victories are upsets of second-place Pepperdine and sixth-place UCLA.
"That's life in the MPSF," Wade said. "Everybody's good. You have to be at your best every night, or you'll get beat. We have to play our best if we want to beat San Diego."
For added incentive, there is last year.
The Tritons swept the Warriors twice last season in San Diego. Prior to that, Hawai'i had an all-time record against UCSD of 39-0.
"Credit to San Diego, they were a good team when they beat us last year," junior outside hitter Joshua Walker said. "But that left a bad taste in our mouth. We definitely didn't like losing to San Diego and definitely don't want to get swept by them again. I've been looking forward to this ever since last year."
Adding to the mix, tomorrow will be "Senior Night" for Hawai'i's six seniors — Ric Cervantes, Matt Rawson, Steven Grgas, Joseph Strotman, Justin Ching and Ernie Vidinha.
"We want to send them out with a win, but we also want to come back for more home games in the playoffs," Walker said.
Frank Fritsch, a 6-foot-7 opposite, leads UCSD with 3.69 kills per set. Jason Spangler, a 6-3 outside hitter, is next at 3.17 kills per set.
• UH Alumni Association members can receive a 50-percent discount on upper-level tickets tonight and tomorrow.
• Anyone who becomes a fan on UH's Facebook or Twitter pages can download a coupon for 50-percent discount on tickets. Visit www.hawaiiathletics.com for details.
• All UH system students and members of the UH Kids' Club will receive a free upper-level ticket to tomorrow's match only.