Warriors’ Carney sympathizes with Colt’s pain
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They are Warriors, too. Just on a different playing field.
When members of the Hawaii men's volleyball team gathered at Sean Carney's home to watch their football team in the Sugar Bowl on Tuesday afternoon, there was a huge sense of pride in seeing their friends and athletic department comrades compete on such a large national stage.
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» Tonight: No. 3 UCLA vs. Ball State, 4 p.m.; No. 4 Penn State at No. 11 Hawaii, 7 p.m., Stan Sheriff Center
» Radio: KKEA 1420-AM (Hawaii matches)
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And when the football Warriors were routed by Georgia, the volleyball Warriors sympathized and empathized. Junior setter Carney totally related ... particularly to quarterback Colt Brennan.
"I know what he went through, I've been in those situations before, when you want it so bad and nothing is working or going right," Carney said. "I definitely felt for him.
"But what I saw was his teammates backing him up, never a long face, patting him on the back. They were always trying to encourage and stay positive. Sure it was a disappointing loss, but they got to that game and how many other teams can say that? Georgia was hot. On a different night, we would have taken them."
It's that attitude that Carney takes into tonight's season opener as the starting setter against No. 4 Penn State in the second match of the 14th Outrigger Hotels Invitational. The tournament opens with the 4 p.m. match between No. 3 UCLA and Ball State at the Stan Sheriff Center.
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CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Iolani alumnus Sean Carney is Hawaii's starting setter and one of the Warriors' co-captains.
He is so ready.
Not just because a broken hand kept him out of the six-week preseason.
Not just because he backed up an All-American the past two seasons.
Sean Carney is just ready to be off the sidelines. The junior setter for Hawaii learned a great deal from watching ... first All-American Brian Beckwith, beginning with Carney's redshirt season in 2005, then Nejc Zemljak, who set the Warriors for all of the fall preseason.
"It's been tough, sitting out," said Carney, who led Iolani to the 2003 state championship. "But it also taught me how to be more of a leader, how to approach my teammates, see how they deal with certain situations, and give them what they need.
"You learn a lot from watching, being almost a coach. Sitting out for six weeks was not what I wanted to do, especially with me being a captain, but it did help me realize what my team needed."
Which may be quite a bit. The young Warriors -- and the emphasis is on young -- have one senior in co-captain Jake Schkud and three others who have much game experience. Schkud appears to have won the battle at opposite, which will be his third position in three years, with junior left-side hitter Jim Clar and sophomores Ric Cervantes, a libero, and middle Matt Rawson the staples of what coach Mike Wilton is calling a patchwork quilt of a team.
Holding the seams together, according to Wilton, is Carney.
Despite missing the preseason, "Sean has paid his dues and he will be starting," Wilton said of tonight's opener against No. 4 Penn State. "He's got a really good attitude and it's his job to lose."
Carney pushed Beckwith for the starting spot the past two seasons, and was used as a serving specialist his freshman year and at outside hitter sparingly as a sophomore.
"He's a really good overall volleyball player," associate coach Tino Reyes said. "He can do a lot of things. But at this level you have to specialize and he's a setter.
"The thing about Sean is he'll never give up. We haven't really seen what he can do at this level. We'll give him every opportunity to show us."
Carney is a fighter, something he attributes to his father, Tom, who has been battling an illness for several years. The health issue was so severe that Tom Carney moved to Boston for treatment, before returning home recently.
"He's really surprised me, how he's looking better now than before he left," said Sean Carney, who missed the first week of fall practice to visit his father. "It's so nice that he'll be here for the start of the season.
"My dad taught me to fight. He's shown that with his illness. Hopefully, he'll push through it.
"What I've learned most from him is that you're not defined by what you do (on the volleyball court). You're defined by the person you are."
But Carney's reputation has been built on the success he enjoyed in volleyball, from high school through club. He originally signed with Lewis, near Chicago, but when the program was hit by a scandal and the 2004 NCAA volleyball title was taken away, Carney decided to return to Hawaii.
Three years later, it's his team to run.
"I'm so excited, it's finally here," Carney said. "We have a lot to work on, but I'm looking forward to playing Penn State. They'll teach us a lot. They'll help us get better.
"This tournament is going to help us get better. We just need to keep working hard and that's all you can ask from your teammates."
But it goes beyond asking. The proof comes from working hard every day, which Carney has done.
"Sean's a competitor," Schkud said. "There's a lot of stuff going on with his family and, while our prayers are with him and his family, I know his mind is totally here.
"He's a good setter, a good co-captain with me. He's a competitor and he wants to win."
The last time Carney was in complete control of a team was his senior year at Iolani. The all-state player led the Raiders to their only state boys volleyball title, a dramatic 20-25, 25-15, 27-25 victory over Kamehameha at the Stan Sheriff Center.
Some four years later, Carney is back at the Sheriff Center, trying to do the same thing with the Warriors.
"People look at us and think 'rebuilding year,' " Carney said. "We do have a lot of freshmen and sophomores, but we have a lot of talent. I'm looking at it as a year to win a national championship."
Not returning this season is left-side hitter Matt Vanzant, who was second in kills (227) and fourth in kill average (3.03 kpg) as a freshman. ... Also expected to be in tonight's starting lineup for the Warriors are sophomore Steven Grgas in the middle and freshman Dusan Matic, originally recruited as a middle, at left-side hitter.