Warriors sweep Ohio State
• Photo gallery: Hawaii-Ohio State volleyball
BY Stephen Tsai
The Hawai'i volleyball team opened its new year — and new era — with a bang, pounding out a 30-20, 30-20, 30-26 rout of Ohio State last night in the Stan Sheriff Center.
But for all of the offensive fireworks in the opening round of the Outrigger Hotels Invitational, it was a gritty defense that defined Charlie Wade's debut as the Warriors' head coach.
"Hawai'i fans love great defense — whether it's football, basketball, Wahine volleyball, baseball," said Wade, who succeeded Mike Wilton in June. "Everybody loves tough, hard-nosed, aggressive defense. They love coming up here watching people be passionate, and seeing bodies fly around. I'm no different. I love it, too. That's something we worked on every day in practice. We've got guys who can end rallies. We want to see if we have guys who can start rallies."
Left-side hitter Joshua Walker slammed 17 kills, hitting a career-high .652 (two errors in 23 swings), and 6-foot-9 freshman opposite attacker Jonas Umlauft hammered 14 kills.
Their points were the result of an active defense that received 49 serves without an error, and manufactured 36 digs.
In his first two UH seasons, Walker admittedly was targeted because of his inconsistent passing. During the offseason, Walker hit the beach in Virginia, working extensively on his passing. During fall training, he focused on his footwork in the hope that better positioning — getting in front of the ball — would help steer passes directly to setter Nejc Zemljak.
Walker passed 14 serves without an error — only one veered away from Zemljak — and came up with a team-high nine digs.
"I've been working hard on my passing," Walker said. "It showed right there."
Walker benefitted from a new defensive strategy in which libero Ric Cervantes was positioned at middle back. That helped ease the burden on Walker and Gus Tuaniga, the second left-side hitter.
In recent practices, Wade emphasized keeping plays alive. He also stressed that players should avoid sliding to the TeraFlex, enabling them to remain as attackers.
"The way we're playing on defense, there should be at least a touch on every play," Walker said. "There should be a touch on the front (row) or a touch in the back. There shouldn't be a reason we shouldn't get a touch on every play."
Accurate passing provided a full menu of options for Zemljak, who was able to feed middle attackers Matt "Dragon" Rawson (eight kills, one error) and Steven Grgas (seven kills, no errors).
Umlauft, a heralded prospect from Germany, helped spread the offense. Umlauft is a threat from the right pin or hitting D sets from the back right. Last year, defenses were able to plant triple blocks on the left side. With Umlauft able to attack high sets, even on trouble plays, defenses can no longer overload a side.
"It's a good combination — me and Josh," Umlauft said. "Nobody has to hit against triple blocks anymore."
Wade said: "Jonas makes Josh Walker better. It opens up everything. You can run the middles better. It opens up the outside. If you have one guy banging good at one antenna, it's going to open up another guy at the other antenna. I think we're going to be pretty balanced offensively. It's not just a one-headed monster. We've got guys who can score."
The Warriors should be effective if they can match their service success. The Warriors scored 33 points on their 88 serves. UH scored 11 points when Tuaniga served. The Buckeyes, meanwhile, scored 11 points on 68 serves. They made 19 service errors, including 11 in the second set.
"The second game was horrendous," Buckeye coach Pete Hanson said. "You can't hand them 11 points, where they don't have to do anything but rotate and then go back and serve. That was frustrating."
Wade gave his team a grade of B-plus. "It was good, but not great," said Wade, who did not call any timeouts.
In the tournament's opening match, top-ranked USC swept No. 5 Penn State, 30-28, 30-24, 30-24.