Salmeri gets chance to play with alumni
Jason Salmeri has been working hard in the practice gym with this year's edition of the Hawaii men's volleyball team. On Saturday, Salmeri -- hired as an assistant in December -- will get to pick on someone his own age.
Who: Loyola-Chicago (16-4) at No. 4 Hawaii (13-4)
When: Tomorrow and Saturday, 7 p.m. Saturday's alumni matches, 4 p.m. (1950s-'80s) and 4:45 p.m. ('90s-2000s).
TV: Live, KFVE Ch. 5
Radio: Saturday live, KKEA, 1420-AM
Series: Hawaii leads 5-1
The former Warrior middle blocker is competing in his first alumni match, a contest that could be just as competitive as the following one that pits No. 3 Hawaii against Loyola-Chicago. Salmeri will join other players from the past 15 years in a best-of-three match at 4:45 p.m.
Among those who have committed are former All-Americans Costas Theocharidis and Pedro Azenha, the latter joining Daniel Rasay as UH's newest alumni players. Also returning are members of the Warriors' 1996 NCAA runner-up squad Mason Kuo, Kahinu Lee, Curt Vaughan, Gavin Cook, Troy Hotz, David Tang and Sivan Leoni.
"It looks to be a really good match and I hope people come early to see it," said Salmeri, who played in 1997 and '98. "We've got Costas and Pedro banging away on the outsides, Eyal (Zimet) is in great shape, has been playing every day.
"And we've got Sivan. He's one in a million."
Leoni, the boys volleyball coach at Kalaheo, played from 1995 to 1998 and was known for his on-court antics. Two of Leoni's teammates and fellow Israelis -- All-American Yuval Katz and Naveh Milo -- were unable to return.
"I've been in contact with Naveh and he says one of these times, he and Yuval will be back," said Salmeri, who played in Israel for part of his seven-year pro career. "I would love to see Yuval go against Costas. So would the fans."
Fans, lots of them, turned out for Katz & Co. regularly some 10 years ago. Although Hawaii has led the country in attendance every year since moving to the Stan Sheriff Center in 1995, that streak could be in jeopardy this season.
According to UH statistics, the team has drawn 34,563 in nine home matches, an average of 3,840, with six regular-season home matches remaining. BYU has 43,716 in 12 home dates, an average of 3,643, with two home matches remaining.
The UH administration is concerned with the drop in attendance from an all-time high of 142,732 10 years ago. There is a direct correlation between the decline in fans and increased ticket prices -- in 1996, the top price for a ticket was $8; this season, it's $14, which does not include the premium seating "donation" for season ticket holders.
Warrior coach Mike Wilton has been asked to draft a proposal that might help the situation. However, it isn't likely to be implemented until next season.
"Price is part of the issue," Wilton said. "Two years ago, we had 8,000 for the UCLA match. We didn't have 4,000 (turnstile) Saturday (for UCLA).
"I know we're on the same page as the administration and that something can be done."
"I'll be brutally honest," Salmeri said. "I'm disappointed in the crowds. There is such a large volleyball community here, and they're not showing up.
"I think more people are staying home and watching (on TV). We're playing the most exciting volleyball in years. When I see our defense, I'm thinking it's Wahine volleyball with bigger hitters. I hope more people will realize how special this team is. It's a great group of guys."
Hawaii, second in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, puts its nine-match winning streak on the line tomorrow with Loyola-Chicago. The Ramblers (16-4) opened 10-0 before losing at Ball State on Feb. 10. Their other three losses came last week on the road when losing to UC Irvine 3-0, UCLA 3-2 and Cal Baptist 3-2.
Notes: Tomorrow's St. Patrick's Day promotion is "Think Green and Save Some Green."
UH students wearing green shirts will be admitted free when showing a valid student ID. Admission is also free to youth (high school age and under) wearing a green shirt.
Saturday's matches are dedicated to former UH player John Mau (1969-70), who has been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as Lou Gehrig's disease). Mau is scheduled to attend.
There is also a benefit buffet dinner for Mau on March 26 at Tree Tops at Manoa (Paradise Park). The cost is $100 and reservations are due by tomorrow.
Checks can be mailed to: Friends of John Mau, 3275 Pauma Place, Honolulu, 96822. For more information, contact Clift Chee at 988-4321 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Dave Au at email@example.com.