Warriors win marathon against Long Beach St.
• Photo gallery: UH Volleyball Saturday
By Stephen Tsai
In a volleyball marathon that ended with a decisive sprint, Hawai'i outlasted Long Beach State, 33-35, 30-25, 30-20, 25-30, 15-5, last night in the Sheriff Center.
"It was a dogfight," left-side hitter Joshua Walker said of the Warriors' third consecutive victory. "I'm glad we were able to put on the gas pedal at the end."
Walker and opposite attacker Jonas Umlauft each slammed 28 kills, and took turns excelling behind the service line, to boost the Warriors to 14-7 overall and 10-6 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation.
In this hana hou of the two-match series, the Warriors were limited. Middle blocker Matt "Dragon" Rawson was available only as blocking specialist because of a sore right knee. What's more, the Warriors' best server, setter Nejc Zemljak, had difficultly disrupting the 49ers' rhythm. A night after scoring on 60 percent of Zemljak's serves, the Warriors converted on four of 21 in the rematch.
"They did a better job of passing my serves," Zemljak said. "That's OK. We had other guys making great serves."
In particular, Umlauft, a 6-foot-9 freshman from Germany, was effective in the third set, when the Warriors scored on seven of his nine serves. After the 49ers closed to 20-18, Umlauft served six points in a row, including two aces.
In the third set, the Warriors, who only went through two full rotations, converted on 18 of 29 serves.
Despite a breakdown in the fourth set, the Warriors were able to revive their serving power in the decisive first-to-15 fifth set.
Walker served three points and Brennon Dyer added two. It was a big adjustment for Dyer, who struggled with his jump serves through the first four sets. But in the fifth, Dyer went with a float serve that the 49ers had difficulty passing.
Dyer's serving gave the Warriors an 8-3 lead, and then Umlauft's turn ended the suspense.
Umlauft usually aligns on the right side and tries to blast serves down the line. But the 49ers overplayed that side, and Umlauft served cross-court.
"The serving (success) continues," UH coach Charlie Wade said. "We're getting more and more guys who can impact a match. We've got guys in the lineup who can come back and, in one turn, can really turn a game."
The Warriors also were able to make adjustments with their attacks. When he is in the front row, Walker usually is positioned on the left side. Last night, the 49ers shifted their block, covering the line, and opening the seams for crossing shots.
"They were trying to take away the line, for some reason," Walker said. "I went for the seams. I tried to swing high and hard. I knew if I did, there was a good chance it would be a kill."
Umlauft, who hits mostly from the right, prefers to hit down-the-line shots. But also facing a double-block, Umlauft found points with angle shots.
All of which was made possible because of the Warriors' accurate passing, which opened the threat of a middle attack.
"Because the passing was so good, they were going on the middles, and the outside was open," Zemljak said.
Long Beach opposite attacker Dean Bittner slammed 26 kills.
"He showed why he's in the conversation for one of the best players in the country," Wade said.
But the Warriors' tough serves didn't always make it easy for setter Conor Eaton to feed Bittner in one-on-one situations. Bittner was blocked several times, including at aloha ball. Rawson, who was brought in for that play, contributed to the triple block.
"It was a good win," Rawson said. "They played really well. We just played a little better."