RAINBOW WARRIOR VOLLEYBALL
Ailing Warriors open at No. 1 UCI
Flu keeps five players out of yesterday's practice
The flu bug that kept two Hawaii volleyball starters out of Friday's exhibition match against British Columbia added three more casualties yesterday.
Four players expected to start in this week's league opener did not make it to Gym 1 for practice yesterday, while another -- senior hitter Lauri Hakala -- was well enough to explain his absence before heading up to the student clinic.
It's not the way Hawaii volleyball coach Mike Wilton wanted to start the week. Wilton, recovered from his bout with the bug last week, was concerned about the team he's putting out on the Bren Events Center court Friday against top-ranked UC Irvine in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation opener for both squads.
Missing yesterday's practice were two senior All-Americans, Hakala and setter Brian Beckwith; middle blockers Dio Dante and Kyle Klinger; and junior outside hitter Jake Schkud. Schkud has been so ill that he is not on this week's 13-player travel roster.
"It's pretty nasty, whatever it is going around," Wilton said. "But we have some other guys who'll get a chance to be out there. It's one of the reason I like to carry 22 (players)."
Without the five, UH still had enough to hold practice, moving up the Court 3 players (redshirts and reserves) to the first court.
Hawaii, ranked fourth in yesterday's first CSTV/AVCA poll of the season, has two more practices before getting on a plane tomorrow afternoon. The Warriors face the Anteaters (4-0) in their season opener on Friday and again on Saturday.
"We have a lot to improve on, for sure," Wilton said, losing twice in exhibitions to UBC last week. "There's plenty of evidence to show that the best team in the country is UC Irvine."
The Anteaters swept through last week's 43rd Elephant Bar Invitational at UC Santa Barbara, winning all three matches in straight sets. UCI capped its appearance with a 30-22, 30-26, 30-23 victory over defending NCAA champion UCLA, a rematch of May's NCAA final.
Eight of the 12 MPSF teams competed in the tournament, with the host Gauchos defeating Cal State Northridge in four for third place. Long Beach State swept Pacific for seventh, and USC outlasted Stanford in five for ninth.
The Anteaters had three players on the all-tournament team, led by senior All-American setter Brian Thornton, named the MVP. Also selected were outside hitter Jayson Jablonsky, the 2006 national player of the year, and All-American opposite Matt Webber.
Others selected were UCLA's Steve Klosterman and Paul George, James Lischer of Cal State Northridge and UCSB's Evan Patak, who missed the MPSF playoffs last season when academically ineligible.
UCI libero Brent Asuka (Iolani '05), the NCAA freshman of the year last season, had a match-high 14 digs in the sweep of the Bruins.
"Irvine is a really good team and this will be a good challenge for us," Wilton said. "We haven't seen anybody play yet. I don't know where we are in the league. Think somewhere in the middle of the pack."
Last season, Hawaii finished second behind MPSF champion UCI. The teams split their two matches at the Stan Sheriff Center.