FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Brian Beckwith, at 6-foot-6, is the tallest setter in UH history and has started all 26 matches for Hawaii this season. He holds the key to the team's success in the MPSF playoffs.
Warriors are confident
Senior setter Beckwith says Hawaii can beat UC Irvine in playoffs
IRVINE, Calif. » If adversity is the greatest teacher, then Brian Beckwith has become very well-educated this season.
Hawaii at UC Irvine
» Today, 4 p.m., Hawaii time
» TV: None
» Radio: KKEA, 1420-AM
» Series: Hawaii leads, 26-6
Hawaii's senior setter has made the difficult look easy, from tracking down shanked volleyballs to not letting the frustration of erratic passing show its face on the court.
Beckwith became an anchor during a season in which Hawaii drifted in and out of consistency. He is the only Warrior to start all 26 matches this emotional roller-coaster ride, dealing with the revolving door of the lineup around him with resolve and resiliency.
Perhaps even more importantly, he's done it with a maturity that at times surprised even himself. Beckwith wanted to win and he's given everything he had to get No. 9 Hawaii into today's Mountain Pacific Sports Federation quarterfinal match at No. 3 UC Irvine.
The Warriors began their season on the road here against the Anteaters with two losses. They do not want to see the season end here, not after they worked so hard to win 10 in a row just to qualify for the playoffs.
"You know, we can beat UCI," Beckwith said. "We're a completely different team than we were in January.
"Getting to the playoffs was great. But we still believe we can win the NCAA title."
Two months ago, few outside the locker room believed the Warriors would be making this trip, any trip, to the postseason. The goal was one step times 10, a goal they reached last Saturday night when beating Stanford to get the senior-night party started.
Appropriately, Beckwith got the match-ending kill, seemingly taking out all his frustration on the volleyball.
"Of course we knew he was going to take that swing," Beckwith's father, Gary, said after the match, his arms weighed down by bags full of his son's leis. "I wish he would hit more.
"His mother (Patty) and I couldn't be prouder. This has been such a tremendous opportunity for him. He's grown so much. Absolutely, we have no regrets about him being out here. It's a huge family."
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Brian Beckwith is 6-oot-6, but because his height came late, he trained to be a setter.
Brian Beckwith had to leave a large but close family -- more than a dozen showed up last Saturday -- to play for the Warriors. It would have been so easy to be wooed by UCLA's offer. He had spent many a summer at camp there, gone to many a game in Pauley Pavilion.
Heck, his mother even works at UCLA.
But easy isn't challenging. And when you've ridden a 10-foot wave off Sunset Beach, easy is not in your vocabulary ... except when it came to making the choice to play for Hawaii.
"It fits my lifestyle," said Beckwith, once a nationally ranked junior longboarder and still an avid surfer. "It was a gut feeling to come here. I'm slower, laid back. It felt great to get out of L.A.
"And the fan support here ... senior night was pretty awesome. It's the best feeling there is, a packed crowd screaming real loud, all cheering for you. Especially when it felt that people had given up on us in the middle of the year. The team kept supporting each other, kept the spark alive, and here we are."
Beckwith admits it wasn't easy to deal with the breakdown in passing. But the 21-year-old has spent a lot of time at what he calls playing fetch since taking up the sport before he was a teenager.
At 6-foot-6, Beckwith is the tallest setter in Warrior history. But his lack of height when growing had him setting early on, and setting at a high level when entering the USA Volleyball pipeline at the high performance level.
Beckwith has remained in the pipeline through the youth, junior and under-21 national teams. This summer, he's been invited to tryout for the World University Games team that will represent the U.S. at the international competition in Thailand.
"Hopefully, I can make the team, go to Bangkok and, if things go well there, maybe get a contract to play pro somewhere," said Beckwith who is about two semesters shy of his degree in American studies. "There's going to be a lot of scouts there. I want to start making some money.
"I hope to still play for the national team, get to the Olympics, but I'm taking one day at a time and living in the moment."
"Brian has done everything we've asked of him and more," Warrior coach Mike Wilton said. "He's a good player, a good student and a good citizen. He takes the game very seriously and is dedicated to both volleyball and school."