Warriors will need big effort at UCLA


POSTED: Wednesday, April 01, 2009

This could very well be the last road trip of the season. If so, Hawaii wants to make the most of it.




No. 13 Hawaii (6-15, 3-13) at No. 9 UCLA (10-13, 6-10),

        Tomorrow and Friday

When: 4 p.m. Hawaii time


Radio/TV: None




The Warriors have never had much success at Pauley Pavilion, going 5-20 overall, including seeing their national title hopes die there in 1996 when losing to UCLA in five sets in the NCAA final.

If Hawaii is going to keep even the slimmest of playoff hopes alive, the Warriors will have to do something that only their 2003 team has been able to do: beat the Bruins twice at home on consecutive nights. They take their shot starting tomorrow (4 p.m. Hawaii time).

“;Pauley is not an easy place to play,”; Hawaii senior hitter Sean Carney said. “;Even though they've struggled like us this season, there is still a mystique, there is respect for them.

“;I don't think a lot of our guys know our history with them, but I grew up with it. And I remember every minute of the game freshman year (2006) when they knocked us out of the playoffs and we were the No. 2 team in the country.

“;They have the advantage, being at home. But we've had some of our best matches against them over the years. It will be tough. We'll have to play our best.”;

That still might not be good enough to get into the eight-team Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament. Hawaii is in 11th, at 3-13 with six matches left; UCLA is eighth at 6-10, also with six remaining.

“;It's do or die for both teams,”; Warriors junior libero Ric Cervantes said. “;This week will make or break the season for them as well.

“;It's been frustrating, knowing that we're one little step away every single match. Whether they'll say it or not, every player on this team is tired of losing. It's not a question of talent; we've got to finish matches.”;

Hawaii, winless in eight road matches, is making a quick turnaround after coming back Saturday following the Thursday-Friday losses at No. 1 UC Irvine. This trip, the Warriors are taking 14 players—instead of the usual 12—and have the services of freshman hitter Steven Hunt.

Hunt fractured his hitting hand Feb. 13 at Long Beach State and has not played since. Hawaii coach Mike Wilton said his freshman, who averaged 3.72 kills per set in 11 starts, was rusty but has practiced hard this week.

“;The hand is fine, back to normal,”; said Hunt. “;I'm still feeling a little awkward on my approaches. The biggest thing has been getting my timing back.

“;Can we win out? We have enough talent but it will be tough.”;

UCLA has also struggled with injuries but the Bruins appear to be healthy now. Junior hitter Garrett Muagututia is back from an ankle injury and helped UCLA to a split with BYU in Provo, Utah, last week.

Also returning for the Bruins is 6-foot-8 middle Jamie Diefenbach, who played in nine games for UCLA's basketball team this season.

The Bruins lead the overall series with the Warriors 50-19.

“;I'm not even looking at the standings,”; Carney said. “;There's no sense in thinking, 'Well, if this team wins or loses then ...'

“;We need to win six but we can't be looking down the road at that. All that is important is the next game.”;