Alberta sweeps past Warriors
BY Stephen Tsai
The volleyball team that came in from the cold — Alberta — chilled Hawai'i's schemes in a 35-33, 30-26, 30-23 victory last night in the Stan Sheriff Center.
The match did not count in the standings, but it did emphasize the Warriors' standing at this point in the season.
"We're over-thinking it," said Charlie Wade, who started six of seven second-team players in the third set after the usual starters struggled early. "We made some simple plays look difficult. I'm hoping the guys who sat out the third (set) maybe gained a different perspective by sitting out. It wasn't a lack of effort. It was making simple plays look difficult."
Left-side hitter Joshua Walker, who had nine kills but hit .238, said the Warriors were admittedly frustrated by the match's pace.
"In practice, we worked on being balanced and playing fast," Walker said. "Then we went out there and it was really slow. It was hard to get any kind of momentum. Every time we would get a run, there would be a timeout — a long timeout — or there would be wiping of the floor or the play would move slowly. We couldn't get any consistency."
Part of the problem was commercial. The television timeouts, which are supposed to be about 1 minute, 15 seconds, are now scheduled for 1:45 but usually take more than 2 minutes. During four of the timeouts, the players were back on the court, waiting for more than 15 seconds until the referees resumed play.
But the Golden Bears also contributed to the deliberate pace.
Without a true opposite attacker — Spencer Leiske, a converted middle, fills that role — the Bears do not run a quick-to-the-pins offense usually found in NCAA volleyball.
"It's part of the makeup of this team," Alberta coach Terry Danyluk said. "We don't really have a natural right-side guy (opposite). We're trying to get the ball to a place guys can actually hit it and do some work with it. I don't know if it's more deliberate, but it's a necessity."
A change in volleyballs also affected the Bears' strategy. This season, Canadian teams use the international ball — Mikasa — which is softer and plays slower than the Molten ball used by the NCAA. The Mikasa ball limits jump serves to only the powerful.
"Unless you've got a real solid arm, your spin ball is a free ball," Danyluk said. "(Receiving teams) were putting it away. It floats way more. It moves way more. The jump float has become a big weapon (for Canadian teams)."
The majority of Bears went with float serves, which usually are passed with hands instead of forearms. The slower hand passes make it easier for a defense to read the sets.
"There were a lot of easy balls that were coming to us that we were shanking," Walker said. "We were over-thinking too much."
Perhaps the most constructive part was the Warriors were able to give extended playing time to reserve outside hitters Ernie Vidinha, Gus Tuaniga and Joe Strotman.
Vidinha had four kills in seven swings and hit .429. It was a satisfying effort for Vidinha, who had missed the previous two seasons because of a lower-back injury.
If he were able to return, it was predicted, he would be used as a libero. Instead, Vidinha, now a senior, is healthy and primed for a larger role as left-side hitter.