RAINBOW WARRIOR VOLLEYBALL
Anteaters 'serve' as Warriors' next menu item
A win over UC Irvine would satiate Hawaii's appetite that was left wanting in the UCLA loss
Coming so close to beating UCLA last Friday only to lose was akin to being served a gourmet meal without being able to eat it.
Such was the analogy made by Hawaii junior middle blocker Dio Dante yesterday as the Warriors turned their attention to this week's Mountain Pacific Sports Federation volleyball matches against UC Irvine. After dropping Games 1 and 2 to the Bruins, Hawaii battled back to win the next two. The Warriors then had match point at 14-13 in Game 5 before losing 16-14.
NO. 4 UC IRVINE AT NO. 7 HAWAII
When: Tomorrow and Friday, 7 p.m.
Where: Stan Sheriff Center
Radio: Both matches live, KKEA (1420-AM)
TV: Both matches live, KFVE (Ch. 5)
Tickets: $3-$11 upper, $14 lower
"We were so close, we could taste it," said Dante, who had 10 kills and five blocks against UCLA. "It hurts more to lose like that than if we had been swept because you did all that work to come back, you're about to win, and then it gets taken away.
"But we've got to forget about Friday and move on. Irvine was young last year, but they did a good job. I'm sure they're better. We'll see how much they've improved."
Hawaii, which remained ranked seventh in this week's poll, won both meetings with UCI last season in Irvine. However,
the fourth-ranked Anteaters have played well this year, including a sweep of visiting UCLA the week before the Bruins came to Honolulu.
The Anteaters had six aces to none by the Bruins on Jan. 13. UCI has 38 aces on the year -- led by Jayson Jablonsky's 10 -- to their opponents' 28; in MPSF play, the Anteaters have a 17-9 edge.
"They're a really good serving team," Hawaii coach Mike Wilton said. "We just watched the tape against UCLA and they served UCLA off the court. They have five guys who can really stick it with the jump serve. They don't miss much."
The Anteaters had five aces but also 15 serving errors when falling at Pepperdine last Friday in four. UCI also got out-blocked by the Waves, 18.5 to 5.
Junior opposite Matt Webber had 20 kills against Pepperdine, the fifth time in seven matches he's led the team in kills. He leads UCI with 4.54 kills per game, followed by Jablonsky's 3.77.
"Webber has been fantastic this year," UCI coach John Speraw said. "He has really turned the corner and should become one of the best opposites in the nation."
Leading the Anteaters in digs is freshman libero Brent Asuka, a 2005 Iolani School graduate. He has 60 digs, averaging 2.40 per game, with a career-high 19 against Pepperdine.
"Asuka has been such a great find," Speraw said. "His play has been magnificent and, as a freshman, he has such room to grow.
"He is going to end up being a special player for us."
Although both teams are coming off tough losses, the Warriors might have the hunger edge because they want to redeem themselves in front of their home fans.
"We're all hungry to prove ourselves to our crowd," sophomore middle Kyle Klinger said. "Irvine is a good team and we're going to have to bring our 'A' game."
Wilton, who gave his players the weekend off, said there were a number of positive things to come out of the UCLA match.
"We didn't play very well, we didn't pass or serve very well, and yet we came real close to winning," Wilton said. "We were out of system all night long and, since we're not very big, we need to be in system to compete.
"This week, we'd like to play well both nights."
Around the MPSF: Cal State Northridge hitter Isaac Kneubuhl (Kamehameha '03) had 37 kills in two wins over IPFW twice last week. ... Pepperdine hitter Jon Grobe (Iolani '02) had 14 kills in a win over UCI last Friday.