Schkud still eyes playoffs
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The winning came often and easy. Gold medals at the Junior Olympics, silver in international competition, a state high school championship.
But the losing, well, that has come more often than Jake Schkud has wanted or expected. And it has been hard.
No. 3 BYU (19-4, 14-4) at No. 13 Hawaii (10-13, 7-11), 7 p.m. today and tomorrow; TV: KFVE, Ch. 5; Radio: KKEA, 1420-AM
Schkud, Hawaii's lone senior, has taken it personally. When he transferred to UH from UC Santa Barbara he made a promise to himself and his teammates.
There would be a national title during his volleyball career here.
"I feel like I didn't hold up my end of the deal," Schkud said. "And now we might not even make the (league) playoffs."
Schkud and the 13th-ranked Warriors have four matches left to make a move in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation standings. Hawaii is currently ninth, one spot away from a playoff berth.
Hawaii's steep climb begins tonight when it hosts No. 3 Brigham Young.
"If we were to make the playoffs, I believe we'd win the whole thing," Schkud said. "But we have to take it one step at a time."
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RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Jake Schkud transferred to UH from UC Santa Barbara, reuniting with high school teammate and best friend Brian Beckwith.
The adjustments have been many, and many more than Jake Schkud cares to remember.
It was not easy to go from being the go-to guy to being the go-sit guy.
From being the two-time U.S. men's junior national team captain and "best blocker" at the international level to trying to fit into Hawaii's offense somewhere ... anywhere.
The Warriors' lone senior just wanted to play, be it at middle blocker, opposite or left-side hitter.
Three years and three positions later, Schkud has finally settled into a starting role. The co-captain from Santa Monica, Calif., leads the young, injury-depleted Warriors into their final two home matches tonight and tomorrow against No. 3 Brigham Young.
No. 13 Hawaii (10-13, 7-11 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) faces the very real possibility of not making the MPSF playoffs for the first time since 1993. Schkud is feeling it more than most because he knows there is no more "wait until next year."
"It definitely hasn't been the career or (senior) year I wanted," said Schkud, first on the team in aces, second in kills and third in blocks. "It's not how I wanted to go out.
"More than anything, I made a promise when I got here that we'd make the finals and win (a national title). I didn't hold up my end of the deal and that's hard to take."
Harder to take is the losing, especially after being so successful so early. There were gold medals and All-America awards at the club level; the mythical national high school championship bestowed upon Loyola High after winning the state tournament; silver in international competition.
There were such high expectations after transferring from UC Santa Barbara to rejoin high school teammate and best friend Brian Beckwith at Hawaii. With Beckwith done with his eligibility, Schkud thought about not coming back.
"It has been hard without Brian," the 23-year-old Schkud said. "We played together for so many years, I got spoiled. This is not to say that (current setters) Sean (Carney) and Nejc (Zemjlak) aren't good. But even now Sean and I are still working on our connections.
"Yes, I almost didn't come back. But I'm not a quitter and didn't want to leave something unfinished. I'm glad I did come back, even if we are having the season we are."
His teammates are glad as well.
"Jake is just an awesome guy, has the best personality," sophomore middle blocker Steven Grgas said. "He knows the game so well. He's going to change the world some day in some way.
"I was lucky to have him as my club coach for 18s. He had this reputation and we all looked up to him. He's been my roommate and I'm going to miss him."
"I'm glad he stuck with it," added Carney. "I think he's proven a lot to everyone, but he's also proven a lot to himself this year. I think he realizes he is a really good player and he has become a very dangerous hitter."
UC Irvine coach John Speraw called Schkud one of his favorite players when coaching the U.S. junior national team.
"First, Jake wanted to be a good player and was willing to work hard to do that," Speraw said.
"Second, he had natural leadership abilities. Finally, he had a great sense of humor.
"He knew there was a time to have fun and a time to go compete. I always respected that."
After working his way onto the Dean's List, Schkud is scheduled to graduate next month with a sociology degree. He hopes to be playing professionally in Europe, but first there is a matter of helping Hawaii get to the playoffs.
"We still have a chance," he said. "I'm not giving up. I really feel if we could just get there, we could win it all. It's just one step at a time."
Tonight's Step One will be taken without sophomore middle Matt Rawson and junior Jim Clar, both out for the year with shoulder injuries.
"I'm mad that I can't play right now, but I'm madder that I can't play by his side on his senior night," Clar said of Schkud. "He's one of my best friends and has done so many things for our team that people don't know about. He took roles other guys couldn't. He really helped the team stay together."