Warriors up for preview
If championships are indeed won in the offseason, then the Hawaii men's volleyball team has a jump-start on being in the final four next May at Penn State.
UC Santa Barbara at Hawaii
When: Tomorrow, 7 p.m., Stan Sheriff Center
Tickets: $5 general admission
Next up: Douglas College at Hawaii, Jan. 6-7, Stan Sheriff Center
The Warriors, coming off a 4-0 outing in Canada earlier this month, hosts league rival UC Santa Barbara tomorrow night. It may be just an exhibition but the early preview will give both coaches a chance to where they are and how far they need to go to be title contenders.
Hawaii appears to have the jump on UCSB, the team the Warriors will open conference play with on the road Jan. 13. Hawaii returns 10 players from last year's 19-9 squad, including six of its most frequently used starters.
But, just as last season, the lineup is subject to change daily. Tomorrow's starters will be based on this week's practice.
"It's still to be decided," Warrior coach Mike Wilton said of his lineup. "We have a caldron of information from practices that we use. Those numbers drive who gets to play."
No one appears to be at the wheel at most positions, except for senior All-American libero Alfred Reft. Junior Brian Beckwith is in a battle with redshirt freshman Sean Carney at setter.
The left-side hitter spot is a logjam with returnees Jake Schkud, Matt Carere and Jose Delgado stacked up along with redshirt freshman Jim Clar. There's tough competition between Matt Bender and Lauri Hakala to fill the shoes of departed All-American opposite Pedro Azenha.
Dio Dante has been the steadiest of the middles, a position with which Wilton has the most concern. Talent and inconsistency has plagued the position, with Dante, Kyle Klinger and Mauli'a LaBarre capable of being hot and cold on the same night.
"There's a big tossup there," Wilton said. "If the middles can be the players we think they can be, we can be a good team."
The biggest addition to the Warrior roster is Carl McGown, a coach with some 30 years of international experience and six Olympics to his credit who was hired as a consultant for the fall. The former coach at Church College of Hawaii (now Brigham Young-Hawaii) and Brigham Young has temporarily filled the vacancy created when assistant Aaron Wilton left to pursue his master's degree at Cal State Sacramento.
"I'm having a lot of fun," said McGown, who led the Cougars to two NCAA titles. "I like coaching volleyball and Mike has some nice players here, a bunch of guys who can play volleyball.
"I think there's enough quality at all positions to have a good team. I thought there were some fundamental flaws in technique but they're making the changes and I've been encouraged."
"Carl is great," Carere said. "We value his input and we've been getting a lot of feedback from him and Mike.
"There's a lot of talent on this team and we're battling it out in practice every day. We look forward to playing somebody else besides our own guys. We get used to our tendencies and it's good to see someone else who reminds us that we have to be ready for what we'll see this season."
Carere had a personal stake in the four matches with the University of British Columbia Oct. 7-8. He is from Victoria, B.C., and "it was nice for me to go home and see all my family," Carere said. "I don't think my grandparents will ever get a chance to travel here.
"I wish we had stayed a little longer. Our Thanksgiving was that Monday (Oct. 10) and it would have been nice to have a Carere family Thanksgiving. But they did bring us some fruit and cookies."
What the Gauchos are bringing this week could be considered potluck. UCSB lost six players from last year's 16-14 squad and are redshirting Bart Kowalski, last season's starting setter. The setting job is between senior Dane Jensen, Kowalski's backup last year, and 6-foot-4 freshman Max Klineman.
The Gauchos do return three starters, including the always dangerous Evan Patak, their 6-8 All-American junior opposite. Also back are junior hitter Bryan Berman and sophomore middle Theo Brunner.
The libero job, according to UCSB coach Ken Preston, will be done by committee "until somebody surfaces," he said.
"These types of matches are good in that they give you an idea what should be worked on afterwards," Preston said. "No matter what you do in the gym beforehand, nothing lets you know about your team better than playing someone else."
Notes: Wilton has been honored as a distinguished alum by his alma mater, BYUH. The 1972 grad was presented with the Genuine Gold honor. .... McGown will be with the Warriors until next month when he and wife Susan return to their Utah home. Wilton said he plans to name a full-time assistant in early December. ... The teams were to have played Saturday at Kahuku High but the match was canceled due to a conflict with the OIA football playoff between Kahuku and Kapolei at the Red Raiders' field.