UCLA rallies past UH in four sets
• Photo gallery: Hawaii vs. UCLA volleyball
BY Stephen Tsai
The Hawai'i volleyball team lost its aim, its focus and then the match in a 27-30, 30-25, 30-26, 30-25 defeat to UCLA last night.
A crowd of 2,410 in the Stan Sheriff Center saw the Warriors give away a combined 52 points on attack and service errors.
"No, no, no, you just can't do that against anybody in this league," said UH coach Charlie Wade, whose team fell to 6-4 overall and 4-3 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation. "Everybody in the league is so good. If you're off a little bit, you're probably going to lose."
Momentum made a U-turn after the first set, in which the Bruins struggled, committing 10 service errors, including botching six of their first 10.
"Our serving was terrible in that first game," UCLA coach Al Scates said. "I'll take 20 percent (service errors for the match), but 10 errors in one game? You can't possibly win, even though we were hitting really well."
UCLA left-side hitter Garrett Muagututia diagnosed the problem as abdominal anxiousness.
"We had the first-game jitters," Muagututia said. "We had to get them out of the way. Hawai'i has a great crowd and a great atmosphere. Once we got that out of the way, we started to play our game."
For the Bruins, that meant disruptive serves, steady passing and the quick-high offensive combination. The Bruins label their middles as "quick hitters," an appropriate description for Nick Vogel and Thomas Amberg. Both feed off fast sets from Kevin Ker, who calls all of the offensive plays.
Because the Bruin middles are more attackers than decoys, their presence spreads defenses, allowing Muagututia to often face single blocks. Muagututia, who is deceptively fast, relied on a compact swing to pound a match-high 21 kills.
Of the power he derives from his swing, mostly on high sets, he said, "The Samoan strength, I guess."
The Bruins also were able to use an active block to contain pin hitters Joshua Walker (eight kills, seven errors, .033 accuracy) and Jonas Umlauft (16 kills, nine errors, .179).
The Bruins out-blocked the Warriors, 16 to 7.5, and Vogel had all 11 of his blocks in the final three sets.
"I think we blocked really well as a team," Vogel said. "It just happened to be a good night. Some of it was luck, some of it was a lot of the stuff we've been working on lately."
Scates said a large share of the practices have been devoted to individual block techniques. Scates said sometimes a second blocker was slow to move into position ; sometimes a blocker would not get his hands far enough over the net.
"This team has the potential to be a great blocking team," Scates said. "We're not great now, but we're moving up from dead last."
Wade tried several tactics. He tinkered with the rotation so 6-foot-7 Matt "Dragon" Rawson would go opposite 6-9 Vogel. Wade replaced Walker, who was struggling with his passes, with Gus Tuaniga. Then in the fourth set, Wade made a double move, replacing setter Nejc Zemljak and opposite Umlauft with Sam Morehouse and Joseph Strotman, respectively.
"We were spinning it, we were dialing it," Wade said. "We were trying different stuff almost every game. We kind of made an all-in move at the end with the double sub. (Morehouse and Strotman) gave us a little bump. We started to make a little run, but it wasn't enough at the end."
Not when the Warriors were betrayed by their serves. The Warriors gave up eight points on service errors in the fourth set. What's more, after scoring 11 points on plays initiated by their serves in the first set, they managed only 20 the rest of the match. The Bruins, meanwhile, scored 33 points on their serves in the final three sets.
"We made too many errors as a team," UH libero Ric Cervantes said. "We beat ourselves. Our passing and our serving were poor. Our passing was in spurts. We were in system for a good portion, then we were out of system for a good portion. We have to be more consistent and more focused. It's all about all seven of us. We have to be a team. That's how we win matches: being a team."