Umlauft MPSF Freshman of Year
BY Stephen Tsai
It took a significant step for Hawai'i volleyball player Jonas Umlauft to be selected as the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation's Freshman of the Year and to the all-league second team.
Umlauft used to take a long two-step stride in attacking sets. The Warrior coaches instructed Umlauft to add a step, which, in turn quickened his approach.
"You're not as fast as you can in two strides," UH head coach Charlie Wade said of his 6-foot-9 opposite attacker. "Adding that one more made him faster to the ball, which makes you jump higher and hit harder."
In the final eight matches of the regular season, in which the Warriors went 6-2, Umlauft hit .348, increasing his attack efficiency from .251 to .277.
Umlauft led the MPSF in scoring, averaging 5.30 kills per set in league play.
"Jonas had a good year," Wade said — the best among MPSF freshmen, it was decided after voting by the league's 12 head coaches.
But Umlauft did not earn enough votes to qualify for the seven-player All-MPSF first team.
Umlauft was named to the second team. UH left-side hitter Joshua Walker was selected to the third team, and Warrior setter Nejc Zemljak received honorable mention.
"It's cool, yeah," Umlauft said of the honors. "It's not the goal. My absolute personal goal is to have success as a team. It's not about winning individual awards. For me, it's more about doing good in the MPSF and seeing how far we can get (in the MPSF tournament)."
The eight-team tournament opens Saturday. UH hosts Pepperdine at 7 p.m. in the Stan Sheriff Center.
Wade said he was "mildly surprised" that Umlauft was not on the first team.
"There are only seven guys (on the first team)," Wade said, "and they're all really good players. There was an impressive list of players there wasn't room for."
Wade said each MPSF coach was asked to nominate their players for consideration.
"There are 12 teams, and if everybody nominates five players, you're looking at 60 players for 21 spots," Wade said. "Paring it down, there just wasn't enough room. There are a lot of good players who are nowhere to be found, not even on honorable mention."
Walker was recognized as a capable hitter (4.28 kills per set in MPSF play), and an improved passer.
"His passing, while still not a strength, is pretty serviceable," Wade said of Walker. "He was out there every night, and he got a lot of attempts. Anybody who gets served that much is going to give some up. But the product speaks for itself. He helped us win more than anything else."
Walker said: "I've been working hard my whole career. It's nice to be recognized for it."
Last season, the Warriors were last among MPSF teams in hitting percentage. This season, with Zemljak at the controls, they are fifth in hitting accuracy (.297) and first in kills (16.13 per set).
"Nejc did a good job figuring out how to run the offense," Wade said.
Zemljak, who works two part-time jobs, managed to find the time to develop cohesiveness with his hitters.
"The process has been step by step, day by day," Zemljak said. "Over time, it builds up. I guess it shows now in the statistics."