RAINBOW WARRIOR VOLLEYBALL
Warriors open with exhibition
It's a time to adjust to the bright lights without being blinded, to clean out the cobwebs without fear of getting caught in the web.
It's what an exhibition is all about, the chance to take some chances without it showing up in the standings. For the Hawaii men's volleyball team, it's also a chance to see what life without senior opposite Matt Bender will be like.
EXHIBITION MEN'S VOLLEYBALL
Who: Hawaii vs. Douglas (Canada)
When: Tonight and tomorrow, 7 p.m.
Where: Stan Sheriff Center
Bender severely injured his left ankle in practice this week and will miss not only the exhibitions with Douglas tonight and tomorrow but also next week's conference matches at UC Santa Barbara. Bender averaged 3.55 kills per game last season.
At the beginning of the week, coach Mike Wilton had anticipated there would be just one change to the lineup after having lost one starter (Pedro Azenha) from last year's team. That was having reserve junior libero Eric Kalima move to outside hitter.
With the injury to Bender, those outside spots now may resemble the revolving door of last year, with converted middle Jake Schkud, Matt Carere, Jose Delgado, Lauri Hakala and Kalima all in the mix.
At the other positions, the Warriors seem set, with senior All-American libero Alfred Reft, junior setter Brian Beckwith, and junior Dio Dante and senior Mauli'a La Barre in the middle.
"I refuse to say how good we'll be because I truly don't know," Wilton said. "I can only compare the individuals who were in the program a year ago with where they were last year. All of them are a quantum leap better than they were last year.
"For us to get to Penn State (site of the final four in May), it's all about surviving the dogfight known as the MPSF. Probably make a case for at least six of the 12 teams to be in the hunt for the final four of the conference tournament.
"It's going to be another challenging MPSF, as it should be."
This is the first time that Hawaii will open Mountain Pacific Sports Federation play prior to hosting the Outrigger Hotels Invitational. The Warriors will see UC Santa Barbara, a team they hosted last October; Hawaii won both "scrimmage-like" matches.
Most of Hawaii's newcomers likely will redshirt: freshmen middles Matthew Rawson and Steven Grgas as well as outsides Mark Ribeiro, Bryce Easter and Ernie Vidinha. One freshman could see playing time: libero Cory Enriques, a Waiakea High product.
"It's going to be hard to break into the lineup," Enriques said. "Alfred is the best libero around and I'm learning a lot. He's a good leader, he's our captain and he knows what he's doing."
On the roster are two former Iolani teammates who have transferred back to Hawaii: freshman setter Sean Carney (Lewis) and sophomore hitter Chad Miller (UC Irvine).
"I'm excited to get started," Kalima said. "The team has grown since last year, gotten a lot stronger. We don't have that one superstar (Azenha) and we know we have to work hard and work together.
"And getting to play on the outside ... back row was fun, but I'm excited to get up to the net."
Note: Reft and Carere are co-captains. Wilton selected Reft and Carere was chosen in a team vote.