Refreshed Hawaii hits the Beach this weekend
BY Stephen Tsai
In Mountain Pacific Sports Federation volleyball, the party line has become the parity line.
The top 10 teams from co-leaders Pepperdine (10-4 in MPSF) and Stanford (10-4) to UC Irvine (6-9) are separated by 4 1/2 games in the regular-season standings. The top eight teams qualify for the MPSF playoffs.
In the middle is Hawai'i, which is in a three-way tie for fifth place, at 8-6.
The Warriors and Long Beach State (7-5) are in a virtual tie. They meet tomorrow and Saturday in the Stan Sheriff Center.
It will be the Warriors' first matches since March 9, when they defeated Southern California in the final of a four-matches-in-five-days tour.
The break, according to UH head coach Charlie Wade, "couldn't have come at a better time. Coming off the NBA(-like) schedule really, five matches in eight days because we played (the previous) Monday we were pretty gassed."
Wade praised his players for conquering fatigue.
"The guys were running on fumes," Wade said, "but they gutted it out and stayed real focused. Playing at a high level, when you know they're not 100 precent, I was pretty impressed."
In the first match of that road trip, Cal State Northridge's Jacek Ratajczak, a 7-foot-2 middle, hammered 30 kills without an error. The next night, the Warriors tweaked their block, limiting Ratajczak to nine kills all in the first set to split the series.
Two nights later, USC rallied to defeat the Warriors. The next night, Wade tweaked the lineup, calling for left-side hitters Joshua Walker and Steven Hunt to trade rotation spots. The flip-flop gave the Warriors a different look with their block Walker was now paired with middle Steven Grgas instead of Matt "Dragon" Rawson and defense.
Did it work? "We won," Wade said, smiling.
He added: "(The Trojans) won the night before, so we didn't want to show them the exact same look. If you win the first (set) and then lose the next three with the same lineup, I'm going to change (the rotation) the next time we go out there."
Wade said his players are sharp video students who are able to make adjustments.
"They've been able to benefit from watching (videos of matches)," Wade said. "I think that comes from guys who are pretty cerebral about the game. You can't always tell if you're doing things correctly (while playing). You think you're doing it one way, then you look at the (video), and you go, 'Oh, I could have been over there. I could be doing something a little different.' "