Pepperdine offers UH a challenge in exhibition
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Rainbow Wahine volleyball fans will notice a familiar face on the Pepperdine bench tomorrow and Tuesday when the Waves take on Hawaii in 4 and 7 p.m. exhibition doubleheaders at the Stan Sheriff Center.
Craig Choate, who has brought his New Mexico State and San Jose State women's teams to Hawaii the past 17 years, recently rejoined Marv Dunphy's staff as an assistant. It's an interesting transition for Choate, who last coached a men's program when on Dunphy's staff for a season in 1990.
"It is different, being with the men's side of it," said Choate, whose contract was not renewed by SJSU after last season. "My heart is still on the women's side, it was a comfort zone for 21 years of my life, but this is a nice spot to have landed."
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Two weeks after being tested by a very good British Columbia team, Hawaii is ready to take on another challenge. It comes in the form of Pepperdine, last season's regular-season conference champion and winner of a record 21 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation matches.
Although half the starting lineup from the team that went 26-3 is gone, the Waves still are very good. Back are senior All-America setter Jonathan Winder, the reigning AVCA National and MPSF player of the year, and junior All-America opposite Paul Carroll.
"We're really grateful that Marv is bringing his team out," Hawaii coach Mike Wilton said. "They're always a good team. They may have different middles, a different libero, but we know they'll be good.
"We're ready to play somebody besides ourselves. It's hard to know where we're at right now. It's safe to say we're 2 1/2 weeks better than we were (against British Columbia)."
Hawaii split its four exhibitions with UBC last month, winning the final match impressively, 30-26, 30-21, 30-25. But two Warriors who started in that match won't be available for the Pepperdine series due to injuries: junior setter Sean Carney and freshman middle Keali'i Frank.
Carney broke his right hand in a non-volleyball-related incident, leaving Hawaii with just one setter. Red-shirt freshman Nejc Zemljak will run the offense all four matches.
The teams will play doubleheaders tomorrow and Tuesday, at 4 and 7 p.m. at the Stan Sheriff Center. Expected to start in tomorrow's "feature" second match for the Warriors are freshman Brennon Dyer and sophomore Matt Rawson in the middle, senior Jake Schkud at opposite, sophomore Matt Vanzant and junior Jim Clar on the outside and sophomore libero Ric Cervantes.
"It's a good group with good priorities and they train real hard," Wilton said. "Against (UBC), I thought we played pretty well, but we weren't as steady as they were. We're hoping we can play steadier this week."
Dunphy said he was looking forward to returning to play at the Stan Sheriff Center.
"It's always an honor to play in that environment," he said. "It's such a volleyball-savvy crowd."
Two Punahou products are coming home with the Waves. Scott Wong, a former All-American at Pepperdine, has returned as an assistant coach, and senior Eric Liebert is in the mix for a starting middle blocker position.