Tuesday, January 9, 2001
Wilton setsSome coaches would rather not raise the bar too high before they start the season.
Hawaii coach thinks the
team can improve on two
straight 19-win seasons
By Pat Bigold
But Mike Wilton is saying just what he said last year at this time.
He expects to win a national title.
"If you don't have an ultimate goal like that, then there's something wrong," said Wilton (157-72), entering his ninth year as head coach of the University of Hawaii men's volleyball team.
But this year he has more reason to be confident he'll better the 19-10 marks his teams have posted the last two years.
A big factor is the return of 6-foot-7 Dejan Miladinovic, who was one of the country's top middle blockers before he had to take a medical redshirt last season.
"When Dejan left, he was one of the best middles in the nation and now he can be the best," said 6-5 senior opposite Torry Tukuafu.
Hawaii returns four starters from last year's squad, including 6-3 outside hitter Costas Theocharidis, who won All-American honors as a freshman.
Theocharidis' 6.14 kills per game average was the third highest single-season average in the program's history.
Stephen Krejci, last year's starting setter, has returned to his native Austria to play for the national team. But highly touted recruit Kimo Tuyay has already begun to win over his hitters.
"I think we look pretty good," said Miladinovic. "Maybe it's early to say but we have a talented setter and all we need is more games."
The 6-2 Tuyay was a first-team All-American at the Junior Olympics last summer and was a two-time All-California Interscholastic Federation pick out of San Diego's Frances Parker High School.
"I try to set a clean ball, and try to be tricky with my set," said Tuyay.
"I'm still trying to see what the other hitters on the team want."
Wilton said he thinks Hawaii's talent is well-suited to the new rally scoring rule, which will make every kill a point.
"It's good for us," he said. "I think our serve will put us in position to play some good defense because we serve tough."
Wilton thinks this team will have better ball control.
"We just have a higher ball control component on this team," he said.
"We have (5-8 junior) Vernon Podlewski, brand new from Santa Barbara City College, doing a great job right out of the blocks as a libero. He's a kid I've been waiting for for about six years. Eyal (6-2 sophomore outside hitter) Zimet is a superb passer as well, and Costas is a great third passer. So ball control off a serve, we're good at that.
"And in the second contact, Tuyay, the setter, he's real good.
"Then we have a whole lot of guys who can hit good. "Last year we had a lot of new guys. Eyal, Costas and (reserve outside hitter) Tony (Ching) were all brand new. First time in the league is tough for anybody. Even a first-team All-American like Costas."
Having a libero will make it easier on Wilton's two middle blockers, Miladinovic and senior Brenton Davis. It's a position at which the Warriors are thin.
UH opens its 2001 campaign tomorrow and Friday against Lewis University. The Warriors follow next week with the seventh Outrigger Hotels Invitational.
Who: Hawaii vs. Lewis
When: Tomorrow and Friday, 7 p.m.
Where: Stan Sheriff Center.
Tickets: Lower level $12, upper level adult $9, upper level senior citizens $8.
TV: Both matches on KFVE.