Warriors tackle Stanford tonight
BY Stephen Tsai
The Hawai'i volleyball team has simplified its to-do list to a single goal.
"We need to win one," left-side hitter Joshua Walker said of the Warriors' four-match road trip to Northern California. "We didn't win any last year."
Indeed, in 2009, the Warriors were winless in 10 road matches — all against Mountain Pacific Sports Federation opponents. They were 6-6 in MPSF home matches, finishing 10th and failing to qualify for the league's eight-team playoff tournament.
Under first-year head coach Charlie Wade, the Warriors went 2-1 to win the past week's Outrigger Hotels Invitational.
They open this road trip tonight against Stanford; the rematch is tomorrow. The Warriors play at Pacific Tuesday and Wednesday.
"We're not strangers," UH libero Ric Cervantes said, a reference to exhibition matches between the Warriors and the Cardinal in the fall.
Cervantes said Stanford runs one of the quickest offenses in the MPSF, largely because of the sons of Rainbow Wahine coach Dave Shoji. Erik Shoji, a Punahou School graduate, is an active libero. Kawika Shoji, an 'Iolani School graduate, is a skilled setter who also has played outside hitter.
There are Island ties to the Cardinal's left-side attack. Spencer McLachlin (Punahou) and Brad Lawson ('Iolani) also are accurate passers.
The Warriors will have a slightly different look since fall training. Matt "Dragon" Rawson did not play in the fall exhibitions against Stanford while recovering from shoulder surgery. He is fully healed.
Opposite attacker Jonas Umlauft has worked on extending his approach on spikes. Because of his long strides, he took a two-step approach, a technique that did not always optimize the hitting power of the 6-foot-9 freshman. In practices this week, Umlauft has worked on hitting off a three-step approach.
"He's recognizing it's something he needs to do, and he's getting better at it," Wade said.
Cervantes has worked on staying on his feet while passing or making digs. His diving saves have kept alive plays but limited his options. Cervantes has embraced the motto: Make passes not puddles.
For the Warriors, once again, it will come down to the serve-and-pass phase, an area where they excelled in victories over top-ranked Southern California and Ohio State but struggled in a loss to Penn State.
The Cardinal is "a great team," Wade said. "We're going to have to play great."