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Wednesday, February 16, 2005



[ UH VOLLEYBALL ]


Well-rested Warriors wary
of road-tested Trojans

Los Angeles to Honolulu via University Park, Pa.?

That was some detour the Southern California volleyball team took to get here for its matches with Hawaii. The Trojans warmed up for the Warriors with a side trip to the Penn State Invitational.

USC at Hawaii

When: Tomorrow and Friday, 7 p.m.
Where: Stan Sheriff Center
Radio: None.
TV: Live, KFVE (Ch. 5)
Tickets: $3-$12.

It was cheaper in the long run, according to Trojans coach Turhan Douglas, who had his team in town Monday. USC split its matches at Penn State. The Trojans swept Rutgers-Newark before being swept by the host Nittany Lions.

"Believe it or not, we played well against Penn State," Douglas said. "But Penn State has a great team and they should do well at the final four."

The Trojans are still regrouping from the loss of freshman setter Jimmy Killian, the Los Angeles Times' Player of the Year and a former high school teammate of Warriors Brian Beckwith and Jake Schkud. Killian set a brilliant match on Jan. 29 against Long Beach State, a match that USC lost in five; on Feb. 4, he was in the hospital for a tonsillectomy and has not returned to the team.

"We were hoping he'd be with us this week," Douglas said. "Coming back from that kind of surgery takes a while.

"I think we were just beginning to find our groove (with Killian) against Long Beach State. We had some opportunities and it was as tight as a Game 5 could be (17-15)."

Killian began to make good connections with his middle blockers, particularly 6-foot-8 freshman Andrew Vernon. USC has since gone back to J.T. Gilmour, last year's starter.

"J.T. hasn't been used to setting the starters but he's starting to connect," Douglas said. "We have good size and we'll match up OK with Hawaii. It will come down to serving and passing. We cannot allow Hawaii to get on any serving runs.

"We can beat any team by serving well. If we're serving about 60 mph and consistently, we can side-out with anyone. The big question mark is can we score enough true points -- blocking and transition hitting -- to win."

While the Trojans racked up frequent-flyer miles, the Warriors used their bye week to get rid of a flu bug that had several players missing a day or two of practice. It also allowed the team to continue working on tweaking its offense, getting ready for the heart of the schedule.

Hawaii is not taking USC lightly. The Trojans may be at the bottom of the league but "that is when a team is the most dangerous," Warrior hitter Jose Delgado said, "when they go out and have nothing to lose.

"It seems like everyone who comes to Hawaii has the best games of their lives, getting excited playing in front of the big crowds. We have to be careful."

UH middle Mauli'a LaBarre, one of those who missed a day's practice last week, echoed Delgado's thoughts.

"USC is a good team, every team in the league is a good team," LaBarre said. "Whenever people come here, they bring their 'A' game so we'll have to bring our 'A' game. They're going to come prepared to battle so we have to be prepared to battle back."

On Monday, Hawaii prepared for USC, expecting to face Killian. Yesterday, the Warriors found out the freshman setter remained in Los Angeles and revised the scouting report with Gilmour, the setter they saw in last year's two matches with the Trojans.

Also in the lineup for USC is Joao Grangeiro, a junior hitter from Brazil who originally came to UH as a libero but transferred before making the team. Grangeiro, smaller than his listed 6-feet, was scheduled to be USC's libero this season, but Douglas said, "He scores so many points for us on his serve and does so many other things when he's on the court that he's back on the outside."

The Warriors are looking at these two matches as a vehicle to improvement. Hawaii hasn't met any of the league's top-tier teams and "we haven't been proven what we really can do," Warrior senior captain Daniel Rasay said. "We've shown little sparks but we haven't been real consistent. Until we get to that point, I'd say we're average.

"This week, we are focusing on USC and being consistent. We can do things this week that will help us next week when we play (at) UCLA. It's hard not to look past (USC) but I'm sure many teams have looked past other teams and it's come back to bite them. We are not overlooking any team. USC is a good team."

Despite being 11th out of 12 teams in the MPSF, Douglas has faith his Trojans can still make the nine-team playoffs in April. USC hasn't made the playoffs since 2001 when being eliminated in the first round by Hawaii.

"Our focus is making the playoffs," Douglas said. "I think we'll have some upsets along the way. We're slowly but surely filling in with some great pieces for now and the future."

Still No. 3: The Warriors remained No. 3 in the USA Today/CSTV Top 15 poll. Hawaii trails unanimous No. 1 choice UCLA and No. 2 Pepperdine.

It's official: UH officially announced yesterday that senior Delano Thomas is no longer part of this year's team. The All-American middle did not complete course work that would have made him eligible for the spring semester. Thomas does have a redshirt year available but it is unknown whether he will decide to return to the team.



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