UH hopes fortunes turn at midseason


POSTED: Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Much like a string of Christmas lights when one bulb has burned out, the Hawaii men's volleyball team admits to having had some blackouts. The replacement bulbs haven't fixed the problems either, but at least there was some light when coach Mike Wilton changed things up against Stanford last week.






No. 14 UC Santa Barbara (4-11, 2-10 MPSF) at No. 12 Hawaii (3-10, 2-8), 7 p.m. tomorrow and Friday. TV: KFVE, Ch. 5; Radio: KKEA, 1420-AM




The lineup experimentation continues against No. 14 UC Santa Barbara tomorrow with junior Steven Grgas moving from middle to opposite, senior Sean Carney again from setter to hitter and sophomore Nejc Zemljak from bench to starter. An injury to freshman hitter Gus Tuaniga (hyperextended elbow) earlier this week, has limited the choices for Wilton, who still has freshman hitter Steven Hunt (broken hand) sidelined.

As of yesterday's practice, sophomore Joshua Walker was penciled in as the other outside hitter. But, as players and fans have come to find out, attached to Hawaii's lineup card is a very large eraser.

“;We'll see how it goes,”; Wilton said.

If the Warriors don't start winning, they will be going nowhere come postseason time. Hawaii (3-10, 2-8 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) is currently in 10th place in the 12-team league and UC Santa Barbara (4-11, 2-10) is 11th. Only the top eight teams advance to the MPSF tournament.

“;They'll be a good test for us,”; Carney said of the Gauchos. “;It's must-win time.”;

Victories have been rare for Hawaii, seemingly as rare as yesterday's occurrence as a “;Square Root Day.”; (3-3-09). The Warriors have done the math, figuring they need at least eight wins in their next 12 matches to advance to the playoffs.

“;We are at the point of the season where we'll have to get the 'W' even if the game doesn't look pretty,”; Zemljak said. “;It doesn't matter that we played good against Stanford. Stanford was a nice match to watch, with lots of good plays and good rallies.

“;But we need a win. Even if it's an ugly win.”;

Hawaii's only two MPSF victories were against current No. 1 Cal State Northridge, and are the only losses on the year for the Matadors.

UC Santa Barbara's two wins have come against last-place Pacific and BYU. The victory over the Cougars was one of five five-set matches the Gauchos have had in their last nine and the only win; UCSB has also lost in five to BYU, UC San Diego, UC Irvine and Stanford.

“;They've been in a lot of matches,”; UH associate coach Tino Reyes said of the Gauchos. “;We played all right against Stanford, but made too many errors and they didn't.

“;It's sort of like the string of Christmas lights. One bulb goes out and the whole string is out.”;

Moving Grgas to opposite may be temporary, but it does add some height to Hawaii's smallish lineup, with Grgas at 6-foot-7 and freshman middle Jarrod Lofy 6-9. The change also means 6-7 junior middle Matt Rawson is back on the court.

Hawaii's block will be tested by one of the better hitters in the MPSF. UCSB sophomore opposite Jeff Menzel is fourth in kill average (5.38 kps) and is eighth in aces with 20.

“;To turn this around, we have to do the small things,”; Zemljak said. “;We're right there with the other teams, but we need to stay focused.

“;No more blackouts.”;




MPSF honor for Kawika Shoji

        Stanford junior setter Kawika Shoji was named co-player of the week in Mountain Pacific Sports Federation men's volleyball.

Shoji ('Iolani '06) helped lead the Cardinal to two sweeps of Hawaii, finishing with a combined 87 assists, 25 digs, 10 kills and two aces.


Sharing the award was Cal State Northridge junior middle Jacek Ratajczak, who had a career-high 17 kills in the upset of then-No. 1 Pepperdine and 11 kills in the victory over USC.





Cindy Luis, Star-Bulletin