RAINBOW WARRIOR VOLLEYBALL
UH-UCI at smaller venue
Fate. Coincidence. Irony. Serendipity.
Or just downright amusing. Take your pick.
Saturday's Mountain Pacific Sports Federation volleyball quarterfinal match between sixth-seeded Hawaii and third-seeded UC Irvine will be played in the 1,200-seat Crawford Gym and not the 5,000-seat Bren Events Center.
Na 'Opio o Ka 'Aina, UCI's Hawaii Club, is holding its 16th annual luau at the larger arena.
"We're not happy with it, but it is what it is," Anteaters coach John Speraw said yesterday. "It is ironic. And it is funny."
Campus venues need to be reserved about six months ahead of time and one group cannot hold two dates. In volleyball's case, Speraw wanted April 21 for a quarterfinal and, in case UCI won the conference title, April 26 and 28 for the MPSF semifinals and final.
"I had to choose one week so I took next week," Speraw said. "When we realized that we wouldn't win the league, we tried to change it but couldn't.
"It's too bad because I truly believe Bren is the best place to play volleyball in southern California. We have been in Crawford (for six matches) this season but we feel more comfortable in Bren. We've become a big-arena team."
Bren is the site for the men's volleyball final four next year.
Ironically, NAOOK wanted April 28 for its date because of another function for an all-student organization that will also be held this Saturday. But volleyball had that date.
"We thought about trying to swap, but by then it was way too late," club historian Dominic Duffert said. "Too much had already been done."
"Ho'i Hou 'Ana I Ka 'Uhane O Ke Aloha" is expected to draw about 500 people, approximately the number of volleyball tickets that remained as of last night. Both the entertainment for the luau and the match have the same 7 p.m. start time.
Prior to last season, when UC Irvine was ranked No. 1, the Anteaters rarely used Bren. This season with most matches in Bren, UCI has been averaging more than 1,250 at home, including a program-high 3,612 for UCLA last month.
"Before the season started, we set our goal at averaging 1,000 and we've exceeded it," Speraw said. "We feel UCI has become a top men's volleyball program and we want people to know our home is Bren."
Just not for the biggest match of the season.
The arena won't be the only difference the Anteaters will see Saturday. They'll face a very different Hawaii team than the one which opened the season there untested, ailing, injured and unsure of a starting lineup.
Of the seven Warriors that started Jan. 12, only senior setter Brian Beckwith and freshman middle Matt Rawson have held their respective spots. Since that opener, senior Eric Kalima has gone from left-side hitter to libero and back, senior Lauri Hakala has gone from left to opposite, senior Dio Dante has replaced Kyle Klinger in the middle, freshman Matt Vanzant has earned a start at the revolving second left spot and freshman Ric Cervantes has camped out at libero.
"For me personally, that first road trip was crazy," Vanzant said. "I was pretty nervous, but now, after playing in front of a bunch of people and playing in different gyms, I feel a lot more relaxed and confident.
"I think we finally found the right combination at the right time. Winning 10 in a row heading to Irvine, is a great boost to our confidence."