RAINBOW WARROR VOLLEYBALL
Warriors hopeful of at-large bid
Hawaii will prepare this week as though it's headed to the final four at Penn State
It was anything but a normal day. For much of the past four months when 2 p.m. rolled around, the Hawaii men's volleyball players would huddle for a group cheer of "Warriors" and form two lines to high-five each other before practice began.
Yesterday, the Warriors hunkered down in their locker room at 2 p.m., holding a bittersweet meeting of subdued celebrations and renewed commitment. The talk was of honors and hope, of how all seven starters had earned Mountain Pacific Sports Federation accolades and how the normal practice routine would resume at 2 p.m. today with the belief that they would be awarded the at-large berth into next week's final four.
"We'll come in and play hard this week because we hope we still have a shot," Warrior senior co-captain Matt Carere said. "We'll play because we love the sport and we'll compete hard in practice to prepare to play next week.
"There's no other way to go about it. We can't stop playing, we can't believe that Irvine's going to lose and they get the at-large bid. We've got to stay positive."
Travel arrangements were made yesterday to leave for Penn State on Sunday, not because the coaching staff is in major denial, but because there is precedent. Last year, No. 2 UCLA was upset in the quarterfinals of the MPSF tournament but was awarded the at-large berth based on the overall season performance.
The Bruins had a 25-5 record when selected. Hawaii, ranked No. 2 before being upset by UCLA in Saturday's quarterfinal, has the second-best record in the country (23-5).
The at-large berth will be announced on ESPNews on Sunday between 9:30 and 10 a.m. Hawaii time. The selection committee is comprised of representatives from the three leagues: MPSF (Petrina Long, UCLA), Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (Ron Shayka, George Mason) and Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (Michele Willis, Ohio State).
Hawaii will continue to practice through the week, hoping that top-ranked UC Irvine is not upset by Long Beach State (22-9) on Thursday or loses in the Saturday final against either Pepperdine (17-7) or UCLA (22-12). If that happens, the Anteaters (27-3) would get the at-large berth, based on season performance.
The Warriors admit it won't be easy to focus when they might be just practicing for naught. The duty falls on senior co-captains Alfred Reft and Carere, and junior setter Brian Beckwith to pull the team together.
"Sure, it's hard," Reft said. "But it would be much worse if we didn't prepare, got the bid and we weren't ready. We'll focus, train hard and hope the cards fall our way."
"Unfortunately, we don't have control over our destiny," Beckwith added. "It's going to require self-discipline and self-motivations. It's going to have to come from myself and my teammates. We've done a pretty good job of it this season.
"Do we have a chance? I think there's a good chance. Irvine's a good team, been a good team all year. We hope they play that way this week and they give us a chance to meet them in the final four."
The Warriors would like a chance for redemption after seeing their school-record 19-match win streak halted Saturday. They also would trade seven All-MPSF awards to change Saturday's outcome.
"Today was bittersweet, without a doubt," said Beckwith, who was named to the first team along with Lauri Hakala. "I'd much rather have a win than first-team anything."
Note: Hawaii dropped two spots to No. 4 in yesterday's CSTV/AVCA Coaches Top 15. UC Irvine received all 16 first-place votes to remain No. 1, with Long Beach State and Pepperdine both moving up a spot, to Nos. 2 and 3, respectively. UCLA climbed two spots to No. 5.
CSTV/AVCA Division I-II Coaches Top 15
First place votes in parentheses
| 1. UC Irvine (16)
| 2. Long Beach State
| 3. Pepperdine
| 4. Hawaii
| 5. UCLA
| 6. BYU
| 7. CSU Northridge
| 8. Loyola-Chicago
| 9. UC Santa Barbara
|11. Penn St.
|12. George Mason
|14. Ball State
|15. Ohio State