Star-Bulletin Sports


Wednesday, April 28, 1999


R A I N B O W _ V O L L E Y B A L L




Hawaii wins
respect with win
over UCLA

The remaining teams are glad
the Bruins are gone, but they
don't see UH as being any
easier to beat

By Cindy Luis
Star-Bulletin

Tapa

PROVO -- That sound . . . what was it? The canyon winds come early along the Wasatch Front?

Nope, it was a collective sigh of relief by three of the teams in this week's Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Tournament. Nobody wanted to see UCLA again this season, but now that Hawaii has replaced the defending national champions in tomorrow's semifinal, the coaches aren't so sure they want to face the Rainbows, either.

"Hawaii can play with anyone; it's just been a mental thing with them," said Long Beach State coach Ray Ratelle, whose No. 2 49ers take on seventh-ranked Southern Cal in tomorrow's first semifinal (1 p.m. HST).

"I'm surprised (Hawaii won) only because UCLA has such a mystique about them and they pride themselves on winning the big games. With them out, who knows who will win this?

"We said on Day 1 of this season that it was going to be a dogfight, that a lot of teams were capable of winning this thing. That's exactly what it has turned out to be.

"Everyone has a chance and whoever wins the big points will win the title."

The Rainbows' huge victory Saturday had implications that reached far beyond the MPSF. With the early ouster, UCLA, the final four host, was eliminated as an at-large berth contender; the Bruins had won national titles all nine times the NCAA final was held in Pauley Pavilion.

The only time two MPSF teams were not in the final four was in 1994 when IUPU-Ft. Wayne hosted the event. The selection committee snubbed higher-ranked Stanford, the MPSF runner-up, to give the Volleydons the at-large berth to help with attendance.

"Considering all the politics that have gone on in the past, I don't even want to think about who'll get the at-large berth," said Ratelle. "The bottom line is to win this week and not take a chance on the (selection) committee's decision."

A Hawaii-Southern Cal final is not out of the realm of possibility. Both are coming off huge wins.

The Trojans upset Pepperdine, which was playing without MPSF Player of the Year George Roumain (ankle sprain).

It was the Trojans' first win over the Waves in 12 matches and the first win in Malibu since 1991.

If Hawaii and Southern Cal did meet Saturday, the winner would go on to the final four as the MPSF's representative. The loser goes home with either No. 1 BYU or No. 2 Long Beach State likely getting the at-large berth.

Long Beach State handed BYU its only loss of the season on March 19 in Provo. The 49ers' two losses were bad ones -- at Pacific and at UC Irvine, both in straight sets.

"If it's us and Hawaii (in the final), then it would get real sticky," said Trojan coach Pat Powers. "I think both of us are playing pretty well right now, but we both have tough matches (tomorrow).

"Hawaii is far and away the best blocking team in the country. If they can weather BYU's senior players and their experience, if (Clay) Stanley can have another big night, then it could happen."

A look at the teams in the MPSF Tournament:

BYU (26-1)

The Cougars had little problem with Pacific last weekend, needing just 73 minutes to finish the sweep. They are tough at home, going 12-1 in Smith Fieldhouse; that lone loss was to Long Beach State on March 19, which snapped a home winning streak dating back to 1997.

BYU has size and experience. Senior blocker Ryan Millar has been an impact player since his freshman season, and senior hitter Ossie Antonetti is one of the most exciting players in the country.

The last time BYU played Hawaii, it was in front of an NCAA record 14,156 fans at the Marriott Center. School is out at BYU and Carl McGown isn't sure what kind of crowd he'll have.

"Mike's team has certainly evolved from the last time we saw them," said McGown. "I'm happy for Mike (about beating UCLA) and we're going to have to play exceptional ball to beat them this time.

HAWAII (19-10)

The Rainbows are coming off the biggest win in school history. They hope to carry the feeling -- as well as the consistency -- into Smith Fieldhouse, where they last lost in five in an MPSF first-round match in 1997.

Clay Stanley, who came off the bench for a school-record 50 kills in Saturday's victory over UCLA, sat out in favor of Brenton Davis (38 kills) when the Rainbows lost to the Cougars on Feb. 19, 15-9, 11-15, 17-15, 15-7.

Size-wise, Hawaii has the edge over BYU, but the Rainbows will again need a team effort. The key again will be passing.

"It's pretty simple. We've got to play defense, block and serve reasonably," said Mike Wilton. "It's mental for us. If we can show up, do the necessary things and come ready to play, we should be OK."

LONG BEACH STATE (21-2)

The 49ers took a while but finally subdued UC Irvine,15-7, 15-10, 15-6, last Saturday to finish unbeaten at home (12-0) for the second time in school history.

One of the Beach's two losses came against the Anteaters, with the 49ers making 27 service errors. Saturday, they had just 12 errors against five aces, three by Scott Faber, in winning their 17th straight at home.

"We've played SC three times this year and beaten them all three times," said Ratelle. "Hopefully we'll play well again. They're young and getting better every day."

SOUTHERN CAL (16-10)

The Trojans picked up their second big win in eight days when they upset Pepperdine last Saturday, for their first postseason win since 1994.

A week earlier, SC outlasted Hawaii in five to gain a split of their series at the Stan Sheriff Center.

"We got two big monkeys off our back in a week," said Pat Powers. "Winning at Hawaii was big for us and gave us confidence.

"We've lost to Long Beach three times, but it's been close. We just have to kick those losses out of our minds. If we're only going to win one against them, this is the one."

Two of the three matches with the 49ers have gone to five, with Long Beach winning Game 5 20-18 at the UCSB Invitational and 17-15 in the league match at SC.



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