A little extra goes long way for UH's Umlauft
By Stephen Tsai
Yesterday afternoon was supposed to be a break from volleyball drills. Hawai'i opposite attacker Jonas Umlauft showed up, anyway, to a darkened Stan Sheriff Center, ready to put in some extra practice time.
Indeed, it is true. Umlauft has been playing lights-out volleyball this season.
"He has a great work ethic," said UH associate head coach Dan Fisher, whose Warriors host Pepperdine in Saturday's Mountain Pacific Sports Federation playoff match. "He tries to get better in all of the things."
Umlauft, a freshman from Germany, leads the nation with an average of 5.30 kills per set. But it is his other skills — as a server, blocker and passer — that have helped transform the Warriors into a top-four team.
At just under 6 feet 10, with the ability to touch 11-6, Umlauft is an imposing obstacle for opposing hitters. The coaches have helped Umlauft become a better block-reader.
"He's seeing the hitter better," Fisher said. "He's reading the setter more efficiently. And, ultimately, in blocking, vision is the most important thing. You're predicting where the ball is going to cross the net."
Umlauft also has improved on his footwork. Earlier in the season, he had what is termed a "negative step" in which he shuffled his feet instead of taking natural steps.
"We worked on him taking up more space," Fisher said. "He has long legs. He can get to balls a lot faster. He's doing much better. That's part of the reason you're seeing him play so consistently."
Still, what has analysts abuzz is Umlauft's ability to put down kills from all points. He is effective from the front left, front right and back right.
"The key is I have really good vision of where the block is," Umlauft said. "I'm not good at hitting hard, but I always know where to hit."
Fisher insisted that Umlauft is deceptively powerful. In fact, Umlauft's spikes have been clocked at up to 65 mph.
"Jonas is very powerful," Fisher said. "It's deceptive a little bit, because he's so tall. It doesn't look that fast."
UH SIGNS HITTER
Scott Hartley, a 6-foot-5 left-side hitter from Costa Canyon High, has signed a letter of intent with UH, head coach Charlie Wade announced yesterday. Hartley has been a member of USA Volleyball's High Performance teams the past few years.
"He's very athletic, and he plays at a high club level," Wade said. "He has good overall skills. We want good volleyball players rather than fill-in-the-blank labels. If we had to pick a label for him, it would 'good volleyball player.' "