Warriors sick of splitting 2-game series
UH wants to break the lose 1, win 1 pattern this week at home against Long Beach State
Enough already with pulling a Shaun White.
Much like the Olympic snowboarding gold medalist who blew his first qualifying run before blowing away the competition Sunday, the Hawaii men's volleyball team is having problems putting away the competition on the first night of a series before coming back strong on Night No. 2.
All three of the Warriors' Mountain Pacific Sports Federation series this season have followed that pattern: UC Santa Barbara, UC Irvine and Pepperdine.
Long Beach State at 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). Replay, 10:30 p.m.
"We are not going to win the league if we keep splitting," Hawaii senior hitter Jose Delgado said. "I'm still trying to figure out what happens. We know how close we are to winning the first night and we know how to bounce back to win the second.
"Enough with the bouncing back. We have to come out strong the first night."
No. 6 Hawaii gets its chance tomorrow against No. 4 Long Beach State, the team that ended the Warriors' season last April with an upset at the Stan Sheriff Center. That match is history ... but the Hawaii players want to remember it in order not to have history repeat itself.
Senior libero Alfred Reft pointed to that loss to the 49ers -- what he called his worst performance as a Warrior -- as his motivation for this season. But the co-captain said it was not the focus of this week's preparation.
"We're looking at every team the same way," Reft said. "All the teams we play are good and, obviously, Long Beach has very good talent and a history of being a good team.
"But last year is last year. We want to do what we do best, take off our game, and not worry about them. If we do that, we'll add another 'W' to the win column."
Hawaii added an impressive 'W' last Friday when sweeping then-No. 1 Pepperdine in Malibu, Calif. The victory put the Warriors in the middle of the tough Mountain Pacific Sports Federation at 3-3, 2 1/2 games behind 6-1 Long Beach State.
The 49ers fell to Pepperdine in four on Jan. 26, their only home loss in seven matches as well as their lone MPSF defeat. The Beach's other loss came Feb. 4 at Penn State in four.
The easy comparison? Hawaii has beaten both Pepperdine and Penn State this season.
But it's even easier to throw that out when knowing that the Sheriff Center usually brings out the best in visiting teams.
"Big arena with the big crowd ... every team that comes out here steps up their game," Warrior setter Brian Beckwith said. "We have to take that into consideration.
"This year, it seems that on the first night, we've taken the time to feel out the other team and then you've seen that big, drastic change in us from the first to the second night. We just have to make the adjustments quicker the first night so we can win both."
Hawaii likely will be without senior opposite Matt Bender, still rehabbing a severe ankle sprain suffered the first week of January. Junior Lauri Hakala has since stepped up to fill the void and leads the team in kills.
Delgado also has been solid and steady on the left, averaging a team-best 4.08 kills per game. He led the Warriors both nights against Pepperdine with a combined 35 kills, tough serving and a career-best three solo blocks in Friday's sweep.
Hawaii has learned it can beat taller teams and will take that into the series with the Beach. The 49ers starting lineup averages taller than 6-foot-6, with All-American setter Tyler Hildebrand the smallest at 6-4.
They also feature the league's top hitter in 6-8 senior middle Duncan Budinger (.546), the league's top two blockers in Budinger (1.56 blocks per game) and 6-7 junior middle Teddy Liles (1.54 bpg), and 6-6 senior opposite Robert Tarr, No. 2 in the MPSF in kills (5.50 kpg).