RAINBOW WARRIOR VOLLEYBALL
UH and UCLA in same struggling mode
The Bruins host the Warriors tomorrow and Friday
Two teams with quite a bit in common clash twice this week, looking for consistency as well as victories in Mountain Pacific Sports Federation volleyball play.
Hawaii (2-4, 2-2 MPSF), which slid six spots to No. 9 in this week's poll, faces UCLA (3-6, 1-5), which dropped three places to No. 8 in the poll, at Pauley Pavilion tomorrow and Friday.
But national rankings don't matter to either. Both teams are looking to end two-match losing streaks.
Who: No. 9 Hawaii (2-4, 2-2) at No. 8 UCLA (3-6, 1-5)
When: Tomorrow and Friday, 5 p.m., Hawaii time
Radio: Live, 1420-AM. TV: None. Series: UCLA leads 46-18
"Right now we're more concerned about us than Hawaii," UCLA coach Al Scates said. "We have played 18 players so far and have not found a combination of athletes who have the potential to win the NCAA championship or anything else for that matter.
"We're hoping to put together a lineup against Hawaii that can win."
Last season, the Bruins struggled as well, mired in the lower fourth of the standings. But UCLA got hot when it counted, winning its last 14, to earn Scates his 19th NCAA title and the school's 99th overall.
"We were 5-10 at one point," Scates said. "But for us to even get to 5-10 we have to pick it up now."
The Warriors are feeling the same way. At 2-2 in the MPSF standings, Hawaii is tied for fifth with Cal State Northridge (3-3).
"There's a lot of season left, but we need to put it together," UH sophomore opposite Jim Clar said after Saturday's loss to Penn State.
The Warriors had an early morning practice before leaving for Los Angeles yesterday afternoon. The focus for 90 minutes was on serving; in two tournament matches last week, Hawaii had six aces against 36 serving errors.
"We need to stay together," UH coach Mike Wilton said. "We need to recognize that tough times don't last but tough people do.
"We know we're not playing so well. Maybe we have some more dues to pay. Maybe we got a little overconfident after beating UOP (twice two weeks ago). We had a couple of nice wins against a pretty good team and I had hoped we were on our way. But we're doing the one step forward, two steps back. We've got to steady out."
One thing steadier is the passing of senior libero Eric Kalima. Wilton said that would have been his choice for the Outrigger Hotels Invitational all-tournament team over Clar.
"He's been our best performer of late," Wilton said.
Hawaii's lineup will continue to be a jigsaw puzzle. Junior Jake Schkud, continuing to transition from middle to left-side hitter, came off the bench last week to replace freshman Matt Vanzant as the team's "fireman," according to Wilton.
Junior middle Kyle Klinger is also trying to break back into the lineup. He is the team's best quick attacker, but senior Dio Dante and freshman Matt Rawson are the better blockers.
"We're still trying to find ourselves," Wilton said.
And so are the Bruins. Scates has used all three of his setters this season and has moved All-American opposite Steve Klosterman to the middle.
As happened with Hawaii, UCLA's two losses were at home last week, to Pepperdine in five after taking a 2-0 lead, and to USC in three. The Trojans had just four hitting errors the entire match, hitting .533, and outblocking the Bruins 15.5 to 2 to win the Kilgour Cup for just the second time in 13 attempts.
USC's victory was surprising considering a week earlier the Trojans lost to perennial bottom dweller UC San Diego.
"It's the oddest league this year," Wilton said. "It just shows you have to come to play every night."
"It's a tough league," Scates agreed. "And it gets tougher every year."
New No. 1:
As expected, Brigham Young moved up to No. 1 in yesterday's CSTV/ AVCA Division I-II Coaches Top 25.
The Cougars (8-0) were a unanimous pick by the 16 voters, the first time since Jan. 11, 2005, BYU holds the top spot.
Previously undefeated and top-ranked UC Irvine dropped to No. 2. The Anteaters were followed by UC Santa Barbara and Pepperdine.
Making its first appearance in the rankings is No. 15 St. Francis (Pa.).