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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, February 27, 2010

Warriors rally past BYU in five

By Stephen Tsai
HawaiiWarriorBeat.com Editor

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Hawai'i's Nejc Zemljak, left, and Matthew Rawson attempt a double block against BYU in the second set of the MPSF match.

REBECCA BREYER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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The Hawai'i volleyball team spread the offensive wealth, then shared in a 30-17, 28-30, 31-33, 30-28, 15-10 victory over Brigham Young last night in the Stan Sheriff Center.

"We should do this more often," said UH left-side hitter Joshua Walker, who pelted 19 kills. "I like it."

Opposite attacker Jonas Umlauft and left-side hitter Steven Hunt also each contributed 19 kills.

"We kept battling and battling," UH coach Charlie Wade said. "It was never say die. The crowd really helped us."

The Warriors dominated the first set, relinquished leads in the next two sets, and then found their collective groove against a BYU team that entered atop the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation standings.

The Cougars also are skilled in defending both land and air, leading the league in digs and blocks.

But the Warriors were able to counter thanks to aggressive serving, an active block and an added offensive weapon.

Hunt's red hair is dyed dark brown, but his roots are blue-collar. With Umlauft and Walker drawing attention, Hunt often faced a single blocker on sets to the front left, front right and middle of the back row.

Playing with controlled aggression, Hunt overpowered the block on line shots and found the seam on angle attack. Hunt hit .361 on 36 swings.

"That's the kind of player he can be," Walker said. "We know he's a great player overall. He just needs to control his anger. When he's focused, like he was tonight, he's a threat."

Hunt had earned a starting job as complementary passer to libero Ric Cervantes. But in UH's divide-and-conquer scheme last night, Hunt was able to claim an offensive role.

"He's not just a passer," setter Nejc Zemljak said. "He was on fire. When he's on fire, why not set him all night long?"

Hunt said: "I was getting the good sets. Nejc set a good match."

It was Zemljak who set the tone with his effective serves. Mixing a sizzling jumper with a short floater, Zemljak served 20 points on 38 attempts. He had four aces.

In the first set, he served nine consecutive points to cap a 10-0 run.

"I'm giving them a little bit of help with a little bit of a serve, but the block is making it easier," Zemljak said.

Walker, Umlauft and middle blocker Matt "Dragon" Rawson are in the front row when Zemljak serves.

"We have a great block in that row," Zemljak said. "All I have to do is get the serve in."

That was the tactic in the decisive first-to-15 final set.

It was 6-all when Umlauft hit into a double block, and UH middle blocker Steven Grgas then parlayed the ricochet into a slam for a 7-6 lead.

That brought Umlauft to the service line. Umlauft is capable of launching serves that would draw speeding fines on the H-3. But he followed Wade's instructions.

"Keep the ball in play," Umlauft said. "With a good block in front, we didn't have to serve hard."

Umlauft served four points in a row aided by a triple block and Hunt's thunderous kill off a crossing shot to boost the Warriors to an 11-6 lead.

After that, the Warriors just needed to exchange sideouts until BYU's Robb Stowell struck the antenna at aloha ball.

"We stuck with it, even after we lost (sets) 2 and 3," Walker said. "We were consistent."

The teams will meet in a rematch this afternoon in Maui's War Memorial Gym.

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