RAINBOW WARRIOR VOLLEYBALL
Steadiness has eluded the 3-13 Warriors
1 win would perk up UH
It's not desperation time ... yet.
However, if the Hawaii men's volleyball team wants any chance at making the postseason conference tournament, the Warriors need to start winning ... and soon.
Tomorrow would be a good start.
No. 14 Hawaii (3-13, 3-11) can end its four-match slide tomorrow when it hosts Cal State Northridge (13-9, 7-6) at the Stan Sheriff Center in the first of two consecutive 7 p.m. contests.
Who: No. 8 Cal State Northridge (13-9, 7-6) at No. 14 Hawaii (3-13, 3-11)
When: Tomorrow and Saturday, 7 p.m.
Where: Stan Sheriff Center
Radio: Saturday's game, KKEA, 1420-AM
TV: KFVE, Ch. 5
Series: Hawaii leads 37-12
Promotion: UH students wearing green shirts admitted free.
The Warriors need to win all eight of their remaining Mountain Pacific Sports Federation matches just to hit .500. Breaking even just might be good enough to sneak into the MPSF playoffs.
"We know Hawaii is very good and their record doesn't show how good they are," CSUN assistant coach Jeff Conover said. "We haven't seen too much video on them, but they have a great setter, very good middles and are very good at home.
"For us to win, we need to continue to do what we've been doing. That is serving aggressively, hustling and doing all the little things that set teams apart when it comes to winning. And we want to continue to get better as a team."
The Warriors have continued to get better, but have not overcome one huge obstacle ... consistency. Hawaii has tested every team in the competitive MPSF, but has been bested by all, save for Pacific twice and USC once.
"We have been so close to beating all the teams we've lost to," UH freshman hitter Matt Vanzant said. "We have the talent, but we need to focus on being steady."
Unless they do, the Warriors will have their first losing season in coach Mike Wilton's 15 years.
Getting to .500 would be more than satisfying.
If the Hawaii men's volleyball team were to hit that mark in Mountain Pacific Sports Federation play, it would mean the Warriors had won all eight of their remaining conference matches, finishing 11-11.
But at this point, winning just one would feel good.
Hawaii takes another swing at it tomorrow when hosting Cal State Northridge in the first of two MPSF matches at the Stan Sheriff Center. The 14th-ranked Warriors (3-13, 3-11) are trying to halt a four-match skid against the No. 8 Matadors (13-9, 9-7), winners of their last five.
"Everyone is still hoping that we can pull ourselves out of it," UH junior middle Kyle Klinger said. "No one is blaming anyone, there is no finger-pointing. We're in this together and we're all not playing well together."
At least not for the consistent amount of time needed to get over the hump against an opponent. The lack of focus at critical times has proven to be Hawaii's Achilles' heel.
The Warriors do not need to be reminded of how it has cost them, not with the memory of last Saturday's loss to No. 1 Pepperdine still fresh. Hawaii led 21-13 in Game 4 only to fall 30-28 when losing in four.
"We need to be more consistent," Warriors coach Mike Wilton said. "We can't keep getting stuck (not siding out)."
Hawaii has been struck on three wins since Feb. 16 when earning a split with USC. Conversely, CSUN hasn't lost since dropping two away matches -- at UCLA and UC Irvine -- winning its last five at home, including last night's 30-17, 30-18, 30-18 victory over New Jersey Tech.
The Matadors were very efficient in sweeping the Highlanders, committing just five errors in hitting a season-high .588. CSUN also had a season-high 12 aces, five by true freshman hitter Mike Gaudino.
Anchoring the Matador defense was junior Isaac Kneubuhl (Kamehameha '03), who has moved to libero from outside hitter following the loss of freshman libero Ali'i Keohohou (broken leg) two weeks ago.
"Isaac is the best passer I've ever seen," CSUN assistant coach Jeff Conover said earlier this week. "He's one of the best passers our program has ever had.
"He's probably our most seasoned player, is our leader. What we lose at the net when he moves to libero is the experience factor, but he is a very smart player wherever he plays."
Conover, aware of Hawaii's passing problems, said the key to the Matadors' success will be putting pressure on the Warriors with aggressive serving. Hawaii's quick attack is predicated on the ability to pass well.
"Their record doesn't show how good they are," Conover said. "Their middles are great blockers, (setter Brian) Beckwith is an offensive option and (hitter Matt) Vanzant is playing well.
"If we had one focus, it would be Lauri Hakala. It would be great if he didn't play well against us."
Hakala, missing three matches with a strained abdominal muscle, sat out yesterday's practice in the Sheriff Center as a precautionary measure, Wilton said. The senior opposite again was bothered by soreness, but did participate in passing drills in Gym 1 with the Warrior redshirts and reserves not expected to see action this week.
Back at practice after missing two days with a foot infection was Dio Dante, who stepped on wana (sea urchin) 12 days ago. The senior middle played against Pepperdine, but his foot became inflamed after Saturday night and had to be treated with antibiotics.
Note: Hawaii has had three losing seasons in 29 years: 1987 (8-10, 8-10), 1991 (7-17, 3-13) and 1992 (13-14, 7-9). Wilton has never had a losing season, the closest coming in 1994 (14-14, 10-9).