Umlauft shows he's one of the best
By Ferd Lewis
How is it, again, that Jonas Umlauft wasn't a first-team all-Mountain Pacific Sports Federation volleyball selection last week?
That question reverberated like the thunderous sound of one of his kills in the University of Hawai'i's 24-30, 30-24, 30-26, 22-30, 18-16 victory over Pepperdine last night.
That the Warriors advanced to the MPSF semifinals Thursday at top-seeded Stanford with their first postseason victory since 2003 was in large part a credit to their largest starting part, the 6-foot-9 outside hitter from Germany.
His match-high 36 kills — the second-highest of this, his debut season in Mānoa — kept the Warriors in a match that threatened, at times, to get away from them.
And he punctuated it with four of Warriors' final seven points in the decisive fifth set that had a Stan Sheriff Center crowd of 5,391 hanging on every serve and spike.
"That was sort of the way he played for us all season," noted UH coach Charlie Wade. "He's been that caliber player for the last how many weeks."
Indeed, this was almost a business-as-usual night at the office for Umlauft, who led the MPSF in kills per game (5.20) and points (5.88).
Yet — and this continues to be a head scratcher — he didn't achieve first-team status in the voting of the 12 MPSF head coaches.
Yes, we know that the MPSF is the cream of the men's volleyball crop nationally and there are only seven berths on the first team.
"There is a lot of great talent in our league," said Wade, being politically correct before rolling his eyes.
But few who can take over a match the way Umlauft can. And even fewer that you can build a team around, which is what happened at UH this season.
On a team picked to finish ninth in the 12-team MPSF by the preseason coaches' poll, Umlauft was the centerpiece that Wade and the Warriors were able to build around.
He was the dominating figure that fans rallied around, witness last night's gathering that was said to be the largest for a men's volleyball match at UH since 2006.
The thing you should admire most about Umlauft is that the MPSF slight wasn't his motivation for a bang-up performance.
More than individual glory, he is pursuing team honors. "No, (the first-team slight) wasn't it" he said. "I wanted to play hard because this was our biggest match of the year."
Said teammate Steven Hunt: "That's Jonas; he always plays hard. He's always out there trying to get us the win. Winning a championship is more important to him than anything else."
For the Warriors, Umlauft is a first-teamer in more ways than one.