Volleyball series pivotal for Hawaii vs. San Diego


POSTED: Thursday, March 12, 2009

Both have more than enough motivation. Hawaii to get back where it is used to being, and UC San Diego to go where it never has gone before.




No. 12 Hawaii (4-11, 3-9) at No. 8 UC San Diego (8-10, 4-9)

        Tomorrow and Saturday, 4 p.m. Hawaii time

Radio/TV: None




Something's gotta give when the two meet in Mountain Pacific Sports Federation men's volleyball matches at RIMAC Arena tomorrow and Saturday. Two wins would give the victor a big edge in the battle to secure a berth in next month's MPSF tournament, with two losses probably putting a postseason spot out of reach.

History is on the Warriors' side. Hawaii (4-11, 3-9 MPSF) has never lost to UC San Diego in 36 meetings, and the Tritons have never advanced to the MPSF playoff in their 18 years of membership.

The advantage, though, is with UCSD (8-10, 4-9), arguably enjoying its best season ever. The Tritons have played very well at home the past two weeks, with a sweep of UCLA, a 3-1 upset of USC and a five-set loss to conference co-leader Pepperdine.

“;They are a good team with good wins and good balance,”; Hawaii coach Mike Wilton said before the team left this afternoon for San Diego. “;They're sure in the hunt for the playoffs.

“;For a long time, they haven't been easy (to beat). We've never lost to them and I'm sure it's on their list.”;


The Tritons came close last Saturday to checking one off their “;Bucket List.”; UCSD was up 9-8 in Set 5 before falling 15-13 to Pepperdine as the Waves ran their record to 35-0 against the Tritons.

“;We had a couple of attack errors and had to play catch-up,”; UCSD coach Kevin Ring said of Set 5. “;We didn't make enough plays at the end.

“;We're certainly pleased with how we played against two of the top teams in the league. It was a nice victory over USC and we came back with another good effort.

“;Hawaii's a talented team and this (series) is important for both teams. We're not looking at two matches. We're just worried about Friday.”;

If there was one Hawaii player who caused concern, Ring said it had to be sophomore Joshua Walker. The outside hitter had a combined 47 kills in last week's split with UC Santa Barbara, including a career-high 30 kills in Thursday's loss. The Warriors rebounded with a convincing sweep Friday.

“;Winning makes you feel good, especially the way we won,”; Walker said. “;Usually we let teams come back and we struggle the last 10 points. We stayed focused the whole match (Friday).

“;We need these wins as much as they do. We have to keep staying focused the whole match. As long as we keep winning we still have a chance to make the playoffs.”;

Wilton said he expected to start the same lineup as last week. That means Nejc Zemljak at setter, Walker and Sean Carney on the outside, Steven Grgas at opposite, Ric Cervantes at libero and Matt Rawson and Jarrod Lofy in the middle.

UCSD's balanced offense has five players averaging over 2.00 kills per set, led by junior opposite Frank Fritsch (3.36 kps). Sophomore hitter Will Ehrman (Punahou '06), who missed last season with an injury, upped his average to 3.45 kps with 18 kills in last week's win over USC.

“;Will is a steady guy, undersized (at 5-foot-11) but a smart hitter,”; Ring said. “;He's very fiery on the court and brings another dimension to the team.”;