RAINBOW WARRIOR VOLLEYBALL
UH and UCLA focused for matchup
Think too far ahead and it is easy to be left behind.
It's the philosophy shared by Hawaii coach Mike Wilton and UCLA coach Al Scates.
While the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation volleyball matches tomorrow and Saturday are critical to the playoff hopes for both teams, neither coach was looking much beyond tomorrow's first whistle at 7 p.m.
"We're thinking 'one day at a time,' and hoping to get a little better each day," Wilton said. "Have we improved since we last saw them (Jan. 20)? For sure we have."
UCLA AT HAWAII
When: Tomorrow and Saturday, 7 p.m.
Radio: Both matches live, KKEA (1420-AM)
TV: Both matches live, KFVE (Channel 5)
Series: UCLA leads, 45-16 overall, 23-11 in Honolulu
If the records are any indication, the Warriors have fared much better than the Bruins. No. 4 Hawaii (11-4, 9-3 MPSF) has gone 8-2 since the five-set loss to UCLA on the final night of the Outrigger Hotels Invitational.
The ninth-ranked Bruins (12-9, 5-7) are 8-6 in the past seven weeks, including four losses at Pauley Pavilion, only the third time in 37 seasons UCLA has lost more than three matches at home.
Until Tuesday's 3-2 win over Loyola-Chicago, the Bruins were riding a three-match losing streak in which they had been swept by all three opponents: Long Beach State, Pepperdine and UC Irvine.
UCLA warmed up for its trip here last night, sweeping Lewis 30-22, 30-25, 30-18 in 77 minutes, as Scates rested most of his first team. Senior hitter Nick Scheftic had a career-high 19 kills and freshman setter Matt Wade had 47 assists for the Bruins, playing their fourth match in eight days.
How their respective seasons have gone in the past seven weeks is reflected in where Hawaii and UCLA sit in the standings. The Warriors are fourth at 9-3, behind BYU (12-2), UC Irvine (10-2) and Pepperdine (11-3) and remain in the hunt for the league title.
UCLA is in eighth and trying to avoid the MPSF tournament play-in game that pits the Nos. 7 and 8 teams for a quarterfinal spot. The play-in winner will then take on the conference champion -- which has a quarterfinal bye -- in a semifinal.
"Right now, we're on the bubble, so these matches with Hawaii are pretty crucial," Scates said in a telephone call yesterday from Los Angeles. "Our goal is to get into the playoff and peak. But we've got to get started.
"We played wonderful in Game 5 against Loyola, we had eight kills in nine swings, and had two aces. I didn't have to make any subs and they played great. We know we can be good when we're playing together."
Scates has been slowly bringing back two of his starters from injury: junior opposite Steve Klosterman (shoulder) and freshman hitter Jamie Diefenbach (knee).
"The good news is Klosterman looks ready for back-to-back matches," Scates said. "Having him back at opposite, which is his position, gives us a little more firepower and allows us to move Damien (senior opposite Scott) back to the outside.
"Diefenbach is not quite back from his surgery. We're hoping he'll give us some quality playing time out there."
Klosterman had 55 attempts in the win over Loyola-Chicago, finishing with 26 kills. He had four kills on eight swings in a brief appearance last night against Lewis.
The Bruins' lineup has seemed like a game of musical chairs at times -- with Wade, a true freshman sharing time at setter with senior Dennis Gonzalez.
Wade, recruited by Hawaii, is the son of former Wahine All-American Rocky Elias, who was a member of the 1979 AIAW national championship team.
The Warriors' lineup is one of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." Hawaii has settled into a comfortable rhythm with Brian Beckwith setting a diverse offense of opposite Lauri Hakala, hitters Matt Carere and Jose Delgado, and middles Dio Dante and Mauli'a La Barre.
"The Finn (Hakala), the Canadian (Carere) and the Puerto Rican (Delgado) are getting the majority of their sets, but you can't ignore their middles," Scates aid. "They're hitting for a pretty high percentage."
Dante is fifth in the MPSF in hitting percentage (.426) while La Barre is 10th (.384). Dante also is the conference block leader (1.70 bpg).
In 2002, UCLA beat Hawaii in the Outrigger Invitational but the Warriors won the two MPSF meetings later in the season. To duplicate that feat, Hawaii has to do two simple things.
"Serve and pass," Wilton said. "You take care of the basics and go from there."