Warriors clean up in sweep
BY Stephen Tsai
For the Hawai'i volleyball team, last night's 30-17, 30-23, 30-26 sweep was a result of cleaning up little messes.
For every dilemma — three four-point deficits in the second set; a stubborn sideout battle in the third set — the Warriors found a solution.
And as part of their self-reliant training, the Warriors were left to solve each problem on their own. UH head coach Charlie Wade did not call any timeouts last night.
"He's never been a coach to call timeouts when we're getting down," said left-side hitter Joshua Walker, who slammed 15 kills and hit .357. "He calls timeouts when he sees things we need to adjust to, like a block assignment. But he let's us figure it out. And we're not worried. We know we can side out and play well."
For the Warriors, it all goes back to the ABCs — accurate ball control.
"They know that to make plays, they have to pay atention, use their eyes, use their intellect," Wade said. "Those are the basics."
For the second consecutive night, it all started behind the service line. The Warriors, who committed three errors in 88 serves Thursday night, went with a more aggressive approach for the rematch. Still, they made only nine errors in 89 serves.
Coupled with an active block — they amassed a 16.5 to 8 advantage in rejections — the Warriors scored 42 points on their serves. In contrast, the Royals' 67 serves resulted in 18 points.
Once again, setter Nejc Zemljak disrupted the Royals' offensive rhythm, contributing 13 points on his 22 serves.
"I'm trying to do the same spin, same approach, same swing every serve," Zemljak said.
Zemljak also has added a short serve that is launched with the same four-step approach he uses for jump serves. It is volleyball's equivalent of a change-up pitch masked by a fastball delivery.
"It's working," he said of he short serve. "But things are happening because the guys are blocking out of the gym."
Middle blocker Matt "Dragon" Rawson, who accumulated seven blocks, said: "The blocking is definitely helping our serving. When we're serving tough and blocking well, we're taking options away from their offense."
The Royals, a member of the NAIA, relied on their emotion offense fueled by vocal supporters strategically placed in each corner of the Stan Sheriff Center. But the Royals' gritty play could not keep pace with the Warriors' all-points attack.
In particular, Walker's threat on "bics" — attacks off quick sets from behind the 3-meter line — forced the Royals to bunch their block.
"I have to be an option for our team and for the other team," Walker said. "Any time we get that, it makes it easier for (opposite attacker) Jonas (Umlauft), Dragon, Brennon (Dyer) and the other outside hitter. We were able to hit from the back row, the front row, inside, outside."
On each play, Zemljak hears multiple voices calling for the set.
"It's great when you have everybody wanting it," Zemljak said. "I don't know if everybody is happy, but I sure hope so."