RAINBOW WARRIOR VOLLEYBALL
Penn State makes the long trek to Hawaii
The No. 11 Nittany Lions are coming off a tough loss
THEY'LL HAVE COME the farthest of the four teams in this week's 12th Outrigger Hotels Volleyball Invitational. When 11th-ranked Penn State DOES get here today, the Nittany Lions will have been traveling for some 17 hours, having left their campus for the airport around 4 this morning.
OUTRIGGER HOTELS INVITATIONAL
Where: Stan Sheriff Center
Tomorrow: No. 5 UCLA (2-2) vs. No. 9 Ohio State (5-0), 4 p.m.; No. 11 Penn State (1-1) vs. No. 7 Hawaii (1-1), 7 p.m.
Thursday: UCLA vs. Penn State, 4 p.m.; Ohio State vs. Hawaii, 7 p.m.
Friday: Penn State vs. Ohio State, 4 p.m.; UCLA vs. Hawaii, 7 p.m.
Tickets: $14 lower, $3-11 upper.
TV: All matches live, KFVE (Ch. 5)
Radio: All Hawaii matches live, KKEA 1420-AM
The concern for PSU coach Mark Pavlik is not this trip, but the long journey back to State College, Pa., in May. If the Nittany Lions want to be at home, playing in the final four instead of sitting in the Rec Hall stands, they have a long way to go in terms of improvement.
"We're not the best passing team," Pavlik said. "This week is going to show us a lot. We want to compete, get ourselves in a position to win, and to do that, we have to maximize our strengths.
"We block pretty well, that hasn't changed. And we run a pretty good transition. I think we have a chance when we get a good swing, but you have to pass to do that. This season, we'll have to take a blue-collar approach."
Both Penn State (1-1) and No. 5 UCLA (2-2) are coming off surprising straight-set losses on Saturday. The Nittany Lions were swept at home by No. 14 Ball State 32-30, 30-28, 30-28, and the Bruins fell at UC Irvine 32-30, 30-28, 30-24.
Meanwhile, undefeated No. 9 Ohio State comes in on a five-match winning streak, and host Hawaii is 1-1, gaining a split at UC Santa Barbara with a victory on Saturday.
"It should be a great tournament," Warrior coach Mike Wilton said. "I'm not concerned with the other teams, it's more about us. We want to continue to get better, which we are doing."
The tournament features three of last year's final four teams. The only one missing is defending national champion Pepperdine, replaced by host Hawaii, which remained at No. 7 in yesterday's coaches poll (see Scoreboard).
A look at the teams, with OHVI appearances, records and title years:
12th, 22-10, 1996, '97, '99, '04
The Warriors rebounded from a season-opening loss to the Gauchos with a win 24 hours later.
"We weren't ready, mentally or physically, the first night," said UH senior hitter Matt Carere, who went from four kills Friday to 23 kills Saturday. "The second night, we were a much more fluid team.
"We came back strong. We know we have to have our 'A' game every night."
Wilton will continue using his "cauldron system" of practice statistics to determine the starting lineup. As of yesterday morning's practice, the first team was comprised of the same players used in Saturday's victory: setter Brian Beckwith, opposite Lauri Hakala, middles Dio Dante and Kyle Klinger, hitters Eric Kalima and Carere, and libero Alfred Reft.
9th, 20-3, 1995, '98, 2000, '01, '02
The Bruins are back after a three-year absence and after winning this event five times in eight appearances.
UCLA is riding a rare two-match losing streak. Besides the 3-0 loss to the Anteaters -- coached by former Bruin player and assistant Jon Speraw -- the Bruins also lost in the Elephant Bar Invitational title match to No. 1 Long Beach State in four.
Junior hitter Paul George is leading the Bruins with 4.15 kills per game, and true freshman Sean O'Malley is second (3.08). Anchoring UCLA are senior setter Dennis Gonzalez (13.62 assists per game) and All-American libero Tony Ker (3.15 dpg).
Missing from last year's NCAA runner-up squad is 6-foot-7 junior opposite Steve Klosterman, who had offseason shoulder surgery. He has practiced but not played this season and is making the trip to Hawaii.
12th, 8-24, none
PSU's senior class has made it to the NCAA semifinals the past three seasons, but didn't get to a final.
"The competitive response is a big question mark for this group," Pavlik said. "A lot of things have to happen for us to be at home in May. No. 1 is we've got to be healthy."
Which they haven't been. Junior middle Kyle Masterson is sidelined with a back problem and all-conference libero Gary Vogel had to withdraw from school due to illness.
Junior hitter Alex Gutor (4.57 kills per game) and senior hitter Matt Proper (4.14 kpg) lead the PSU offense. The Nittany Lions are out-blocking their opponents 24.5 to 18.5.
The Buckeyes, the MIVA preseason favorites, have four starters back from the final four team which lost to UCLA in the semifinals.
Leading OSU are senior hitter Stuart Katz (4.00 kills per game) and freshman Robert Klein (3.75 kpg). Sophomore setter Daniel Matthews (12.53 assists per game) was on the U.S. junior national team with Warriors Beckwith and Jake Schkud.
The Buckeyes warmed up for their trip with sweeps of St. Francis (Pa.), D'Youville (N.Y.) and Rutgers-Newark and two four-game wins against UC San Diego.