UH eyes volleyball sweep
BY Stephen Tsai
For its final regular-season road trip, the Hawai'i volleyball team's omiyage list includes two victories.
By sweeping UC Santa Barbara tomorrow and Saturday, the Warriors will secure a host's berth for the opening round of next week's Mountain Pacific Sports Federation playoffs.
"Win two, you host for sure," UH head coach Charlie Wade said.
Entering the final weekend of the regular season — each team plays 22 league matches — the Warriors and Pepperdine are tied for fourth with 13-7 MPSF records.
Eight teams qualify for the MPSF playoffs, and the top four host opening-round matches.
Stanford (15-5) is in first place. Cal State Northridge and Brigham Young are tied for second at 14-6. But Northridge and BYU play each other twice this weekend in Provo, Utah, meaning one will finish with eight losses or both will finish with seven losses. Pepperdine plays at Long Beach State tonight.
The Warriors hold the tie-breaker over Northridge, BYU and Pepperdine. Stanford has the tie-breaker over UH.
There are various scenarios in which the Warriors could split this weekend and still host a playoff match, but the easiest route is to sweep Santa Barbara.
"It's nice to be able to control your own destiny," Wade said. "It's nice that we're already in (the playoffs)."
The Warriors did not qualify for the postseason in 2008 and 2009.
"To be in the playoffs is good," middle blocker Steven Grgas said. "To host would be even better. That's Goal Setting 101. I want to play at home for the first round."
In MPSF matches, the Warriors are 8-2 in the Stan Sheriff Center and 5-5 on the road. In their first road trip, they lost both matches to Stanford but won two at Pacific. Since then, they have split three two-match series.
"It would be nice to break the streak of 50-50 on the road," Grgas said. "We'll see."
The Warriors' last MPSF match was April 3, against UC San Diego. They played an exhibition against an alumni team this past Saturday. The alumni won in five sets, although the Warriors played all of their starters only in the first set.
The Warriors appear to be benefitting from what will become essentially a two-week break. During Monday's practice, Wade noted, left-side hitter Joshua Walker "had fresh legs for the first time in, maybe, a month."
"We're a different team from two weeks ago," Walker said.
And much different from the start of the season, Wade said.
"There's a great deal of clarity of who can contribute and how," said Wade, noting there are now established substitution patterns.
The matches will showcase two of the league's most prolific scorers — UH's Jonas Umlauft (5.16 kills per MPSF match) and Santa Barbara's Jeff Menzel (5.11).
Menzel "is a scoring machine," Wade said. "When he's hot, (the Gauchos) can beat anybody."