RAINBOW WARRIOR VOLLEYBALL
Warriors, Cougars looking for momentum
Hawaii and BYU enter this weekend's series hoping to peak for the playoffs
Two teams with different styles but with one common goal: To begin peaking for postseason play during this, the final week of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation regular season.
No. 2 Hawaii (21-4, 17-3) is all about speed and quickness, with an efficient, multi-prong attack that leads the MPSF in kill average and hitting percentage. Add athleticism to the quickness and speed, and it results in the Warriors also leading the MPSF in blocking.
Who: No. 4 BYU (18-6, 14-6) at No. 2 Hawaii (21-4, 17-3)
When: Tomorrow and Saturday, 7 p.m.
Where: Sheriff Center
Radio: Live, KKEA (1420-AM)
TV: Live, KFVE (Ch. 5)
No. 4 Brigham Young (18-6, 14-6) is more about power and size. The Cougars are big and physical, as well as athletic, which led to their No. 1 preseason ranking in a vote by the league coaches.
Although different in styles and strengths, the Warriors and Cougars know they share something else in common besides the Stan Sheriff Center court tomorrow and Saturday. The key to running their respective offenses is consistency in serving and passing.
Hawaii has been one of the most consistent teams in the country, with a 17-match winning streak second nationally only to No. 1 UC Irvine's run of 20. (The Anteaters all but clinched the MPSF regular-season championship last night by sweeping Cal State Northridge).
Brigham Young's inconsistency has baffled even coach Tom Peterson, who is at a loss to explain the ups and downs of a team that had five returning starters. The veteran squad has struggled to a 3-5 road record, including dropping both matches last week at Long Beach State.
"You want to be the hot team going into the playoffs, and it's disappointing that we didn't get better at the end the way we expected," Peterson said before leaving for Hawaii yesterday. "When we're on, we can be one of the top teams in the country,
but we've been inconsistent.
"I think Hawaii's been great for a long while this season, and may be the best team in the country. Their ball control and experience is a big worry. To beat them, we'll need to be consistent against a very consistent team."
One area that Peterson hopes his team can improve upon is serving. Against the 49ers last week, the Cougars had 11 service aces but also 32 service errors; the 49ers had a combined 16 aces and 33 errors.
"But it seemed that their aces and our errors came at critical times," said Peterson, in his fourth year as Cougars head coach. "We needed to step up in the pressure situations and didn't. We got outplayed in ball control.
"We have to fix ourselves as much as anything. We are fine at home (13-1), but when we go away ... "
Regardless of the Cougars' away record, they've felt right at home as of late in the Sheriff Center. BYU has won its last five against Hawaii in Honolulu, and also defeated Long Beach State for the 2004 NCAA title here.
Their history of success at the Sheriff Center is something Peterson is stressing to his players.
"I'm reminding them that, hey, this is a good place to play for us," Peterson said. "Everyone there is so wonderful. It's really the best place to play volleyball.
"We know Hawaii is going to play good. Hopefully, we'll play good, too."
Retired BYU coach Carl McGown, who spent last fall as the Warriors' team consultant, offered his perspective.
"BYU is the most physically dominant team that I think has been in the league in years and years," McGown said from his Provo home yesterday. "To win a game, let alone a match, would be a wonderful testament to the team the 'Bows have developed.
"These are a couple of big matches for the 'Bows. Can they win? Yes, they can. They're good. But so is BYU."
Warrior coach Mike Wilton is expecting exciting battles both nights.
"They have the most physically talented team in the country," Wilton said. "We're pretty athletic, but they're really athletic.
"I think they have a really good setter (senior Rob Neilson) and, when they're in system, he makes them real good."
The Cougars also have two physical left-side hitters in 6-foot-8 freshman Yosleyder Cala from Cuba, rumored to be able to touch 12-4, and 6-4 sophomore Ivan Perez. At opposite is junior transfer Jonathan Charette, who was an All-State selection in 2001 at Pearl City in his one semester there, while BYU's middle is anchored by senior Victor Batista and sophomore Russell Holmes.
"We have a lot of respect for their abilities," UH senior hitter Matt Carere said. "We'll need to go out and battle because we know they'll give us a good fight."
UC Irvine in sweep: Top-ranked UC Irvine all but clinched its first MPSF title last night with a 30-27, 30-24, 30-24 sweep of host Cal State Northridge, snapping the Matadors' seven-match win streak. The Anteaters improved to 26-3 overall, 19-2 in the MPSF, heading into their last conference match Saturday against visiting UC Santa Barbara.
The only way Hawaii can now win the MPSF title is if UCI loses to the Gauchos and the Warriors win both matches against BYU.
Match promotions: Tomorrow is "Student Night," with all UH system students admitted free. Students must show a valid spring ID card at the box office when picking up tickets and also at the gate when entering ... Fans are encouraged to wear white shirts on Saturday's "White Out on Senior Night." Hawaii will honor its five seniors -- Matt Bender, Matt Carere, Jose Delgado, Mauli'a La Barre and Alfred Reft -- after the match.