R A I N B O W _ V O L L E Y B A L L

ByGeorgeF. Lee, Star-Bulletin
Curt Vaughan (8) shows off his blocking skills in an
earlier match against Lewis University.

’Bow Vaughan
moves to the head
of the class

He is no longer seen
as a setter for Hawaii, but as
the ‘Guy with the Hair’

By Cindy Luis

No fear.

Not when it comes to making a risky set.

Not when it comes to playing the ultimate head game.

When Curt Vaughan wanted to be noticed, he went straight to the top. Some 75 inches off the ground. To the root of the matter.

His hair.

"It's strange how it all started," said the senior setter for the University of Hawaii men's volleyball team. "I had been branded an athlete for so long, I got tired of being stereotyped. Now I've gone from one stereotype to another.

"I'm not seen as a volleyball player, I'm 'The Guy with the Hair.'"

Vaughan has become the dude with the 'do to dye for, running through the rainbow from magenta to shave ice vanilla blue. What began as an attention-getter his sophomore year has become a heads-up reminder for Vaughan to play the game the way he wants to, and have fun doing it.

"I told Coach (Mike Wilton) that I was going to do it," said Vaughan, who is 496 assists away from the UH career record. "I got to the arena and it was bright purple. I thought there was no way Coach was going to let me play. He laughed. I played.

"It made me feel different, gave me a different attitude. I'm more at ease. The only way I can play good is if I'm loose, having a good time and not worrying about things."

Until a few weeks ago, Vaughan was very worried. After starting his freshman season, he split time with Erik Pichel as a sophomore then -- rehabbing from a shoulder injury -- was mostly in a backup role behind the All-American last season.

He was back on the bench early in the Feb. 28 match at UCLA and didn't take back his starting position from Kahinu Lee until after the Rainbows were upset by Cal State Northridge on March 7. Vaughan vowed he was not going to sit out again.

"I didn't like the way the team was playing and it is easier to change one guy than six," said Wilton, whose 10th-ranked team hosts Loyola Marymount tomorrow and Saturday. "It wasn't a ploy but Curt is now playing some of the best volleyball of his career. He's really stepped it up and I'm very pleased and proud of him.

"He's been doing all the things we want in a setter: talking to the players, scrapping, running the offense. And blocking well, too."

Vaughan, at 6-foot-3, has been a double threat at the net with his deceptive setting and big block. He had a career-high 12 assist blocks as the Rainbows stuffed Lewis last Saturday.

"I couldn't believe that night," said the two-sport all-star out of Ventura (Calif.) High. "It was one of those nights that I had a feel for the ball, could see where they were going to hit. It was like in basketball, when you know the ball is going in the hoop. I knew the ball would hit me in the hands. But even more than that, I liked how we destroyed Lewis' block. I get such satisfaction out of making sets that I don't think anyone else can or has the willingness to try. I like running a lot of combination plays and when you destroy the other team's block, I know that it's me making that happen."

That's the glory time for a setter, the unsung quarterback of any successful team. It's not going to show up in the box score or draw the big cheers from the crowd.

"It really takes a different mentality to be a setter," said Wilton. "They have to derive satisfaction from things like fooling the block, doing subtle things that Joe Fan doesn't always notice. It's a tough job. You have to be aware of who on your team can do what, who's hot, who's not, when to set what and be aware of what the other team is doing."

Vaughan knew that setting would be his only chance at playing in college. He convinced his high school coach to switch him from outside hitter his junior year, a switch that didn't earn him any notice until he played in the Junior Olympics after graduating.

"I was planning on going to junior college (L.A. Pierce) and then maybe end up at Pepperdine," said Vaughan. "I was really surprised when Hawaii was interested. I had a good Junior Olympics and I went from one-two offers to almost everyone offering me a scholarship.

"I was overwhelmed and had about a two-week period to decide what I was going to do for the next four years. I made my recruiting trip here and really liked it. I have some regrets but, atmophere-wise, there's no better place to play volleyball."

Vaughan plans to graduate with a business major next spring, then put graduate school on hold for a couple of years.

Vaughan also would like to think a third consecutive final four appearance is in Hawaii's future. The Rainbows (11-7, 6-6) are still very much in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation playoff race going into their matches tomorrow and Saturday with Loyola Marymount (5-10, 4-10).

"It's interesting how things work out," said Vaughan. "When we started losing, I started tightening up and started playing very conservative. I was playing a game that wasn't me. The more I watched Kahinu set, the more I decided that, once I got back in, I had to stop worrying about whether we won or lost, whether I was good enough.

"I've decided to quit worrying about what other people think. I'm having fun and the team is getting its confidence back. We've lost enough games that we're pretty humble right now. We've just got to go out and play."

Color Vaughan confident.

MPSF Volleyball

Tomorrow: Loyola Marymount (5-10, 4-10) at Hawaii (11-7, 6-6), 7 p.m.
Saturday: Loyola Marymount at Hawaii (nonconference), 7:30 p.m.
Where: Special Events Arena.
Broadcasts: Live on KFVE-TV (Channel 5). No radio.
Tickets: Upper level--$4 students, $6 seniors, $7 adults. Lower level--$9, game day only.

1997 UH Men’s Volleyball
Schedule and Record

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