Tuesday, January 19, 1999
Tough test for
Three of the top-rankedBy Cindy Luis
volleyball teams and powerful
Penn State meet in tourney
When the going gets tough, the tough gets tougher. At least that's the plan for the teams in this week's fifth Outrigger Hotels Invitational men's volleyball tournament.
In what could be a preview of the 1999 NCAA final four championship field, the three top-ranked teams in the country -- UCLA, Lewis and Hawaii -- plus perennial power Penn State will battle for the tourney title. All four teams are hoping to be at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion four months from now and will use this event as a good gauge of their postseason chances.
"We're hungry for some great competition and we expect to get it," said Lewis coach Dave Deuser. "We have never started the season off this tough. Our first five matches are really something (Rutgers-Newark, Hawaii, UCLA, Penn State, Ball State).
"There's definitely the possibility that this is an early look at the final four. But I think some other teams like BYU and Ohio State will have something to say about that. We're no shoo-in but ... the potential is there."
Lewis was here last May when the Stan Sheriff Center was the site of the national tournament. The Flyers became the adopted home team in their semifinal match with UCLA, and very nearly pulled off what would have been one of the biggest upsets in men's volleyball history.
Lewis won Game 1 and led 9-7 in Game 2 before UCLA reeled off the next 19 points. Fired up by sub Danny Farmer, the Bruins eventually won the semifinal, 3-2, and went on to their 17th championship two nights later against Pepperdine.
"I try not to think about that match because the whole experience of being here in the final four is so great," said Deuser. "Sure, in the back of my mind and when I watch the tape I think about how a few points here and there could have changed things.
"Playing UCLA is not some kind of revenge thing. We always want to play the best teams in the country. And we've been looking forward to coming back here since last May."
This is a rematch of the 1996 final four played at UCLA. Hawaii defeated Penn State and UCLA eliminated Lewis in the semifinals; the Bruins then upset the Rainbows for the title.
A look at the teams:
Coach: Mike Wilton (7th season, 121-52).
Preseason ranking: No. 3.
Last season: 23-6.
Top players: Mason Kuo (6-2 Sr. setter), Andre Breuer (6-9 Jr. middle), Dejan Miladinovic (6-7 So. middle), Clay Stanley (6-9 So. opposite).
Off the net: The Rainbows opened the season with two straight-set wins over UC San Diego last week ... All-American middle Andre Breuer sprained his right ankle the first night against the Tritons and is listed as doubtful-to-probable for this week's tournament.
Coach: Al Scates (37th year, 947-147.
Preseason ranking: No. 1.
Last season: 28-4.
Top players: Brandon Taliaferro (6-5 Jr. setter), Fred Robins (6-6 Sr. hitter), Adam Naeve (6-10 Jr. quick), Danny Farmer (6-4 Sr. quick).
Off the net: The Bruins opened the regular season with a 15-2, 15-6, 15-11 win over UC Santa Barbara last Wednesday. During the 80 minutes, UCLA had 35 digs and five aces while the Gauchos hit .064. ... The Bruins return four starters from last year's title team, including Naeve, who was named the MVP of the national tournament.
Hawaii tie: Fred Robins, a Kamehameha graduate, is in his final season at UCLA.
Coach: Mark Pavlik (5th season, 100-31).
Penn State Nittany Lions
Preseason ranking: Unranked.
Last season: 17-15.
Top players: Dan Pollock (6-3 Sr. setter), Tony Mazzullo (6-5 Sr. swing), Sergio Pampena (6-4, Sr. middle), Brad Miller (6-6 Sr. middle), Dan Schall (5-10 Sr. defensive specialist).
Off the net: The Nittany Lions went 4-0 in their own invitational, defeating Niagara, Windsor, Laurier and Sherbrooke to open the season. It has been anything but happy for them since leaving Happy Valley last week as they lost at No. 5 Ohio State, 3-0, and lost three times at No. 4 Pepperdine, taking just one game off the Waves ... Penn State returns five seniors, including co-captains Mazzullo and Schall. All five seniors have made at least one trip to the final four.
Hawaii tie: The Nittany Lions defeated the Rainbows in the 1995 national semifinal, 7-15, 15-13, 16-14, 6-15, 15-12. The Rainbows defeated Penn State in the 1996 national semifinal, 15-9, 15-3, 13-15, 15-7.
Coach: Dave Deuser (6th season, 130-48).
Preseason ranking: No. 2.
Last season: 25-9.
Top players: Victor Rivera (6-5 Sr. opposite), Eduardo Quinones (6-3 Jr. hitter), Edgardo Deniz (6-1 Jr. setter), Paul Aviles (6-5 So. middle), Guy Nembbard (6-6 senior middle).
Off the net: The Flyers opened the season with a 3-0 win over Rutgers-Newark. Rivera, a two-time All-American and an NCAA all-tournament pick , had 18 kills and hit ..464 ... Rivera was the runner-up in last season's Player of the Year voting ... Lewis returns all six starters from the team that played at the Sheriff Center last May.
Hawaii tie: Redshirting for the Flyers this season is setter P.J. Malin of Honolulu, a Hawaii Baptist product.
Outrigger Hotels InvitationalTomorrow: Penn State (4-4) vs. No. 1 UCLA (1-0), 4:30 p.m.; No. 3 Hawaii (2-0) vs. No. 2 Lewis (1-0), 7 p.m.
Thursday: UCLA vs. Lewis, 4:30 p.m.; Hawaii vs. Penn State, 7 p.m.
Friday: Lewis vs. Penn State, 4:30 p.m.; Hawaii vs. UCLA, 7 p.m.
Where: Stan Sheriff Center.
Broadcasts: All Hawaii matches live on KFVE-TV (Channel 5).