Fans to get sneak peek at Umlauft era


POSTED: Tuesday, November 24, 2009

It's not so much a rebuilding as it is a reclamation project. The Hawaii coaches and players want to reclaim the respect and success that the Warriors volleyball team once enjoyed.

A new coaching staff, an influx of new talent and a new attitude have given Hawaii a new direction.

“;I see a lot of positive movement for the program,”; said former Warriors setter Brian Beckwith, the team's new director of operations. “;This is a real enthusiastic group who really wants to change for the better and turn the program around.”;

The Warriors are coming off a 9-18 season in which they didn't qualify for the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation playoffs for a second consecutive season. Hawaii hasn't won an MPSF playoff match since 2003, eliminated in the first round in 2004 through 2007.

“;I think we're taking the necessary steps to get better,”; senior libero Ric Cervantes said. “;I feel we're progressing as a team and there's a real team concept this year, rather than people playing as individuals.





        Who: Stanford at Hawaii (exhibition)

        When: 3 p.m. tomorrow; 9 a.m. Friday; 8 a.m. Saturday

        Where: Klum Gym

        Admission: Free

        Note: Beach chairs allowed

“;It's going to be good to play someone else this week and get to see where we're at. Stanford was good last year and they'll be better this year. It will be a good gauge for us.”;

Hawaii hosts Stanford in three exhibitions in Klum Gym beginning tomorrow. The Cardinal, with a starting lineup composed mostly of former island prep standouts, is expected to be among the favorites to win the NCAA title next May.

Returning home in time for Thanksgiving are senior setter Kawika Shoji ('Iolani '06), junior libero Jordan Inafuku (Kamehameha '07), junior hitter Spencer McLachlin (Punahou '07), junior middle Max Halvorson (Punahou '07), sophomore libero Erik Shoji (Punahou '08), sophomore hitter Brad Lawson ('Iolani '08) and freshman setter Chandler Kaaa (Kamehameha-Hawaii '09). Coming back to stay after two months as a volunteer assistant is McLachlin's father, Chris, retired Punahou coach and former Cardinal player-coach.

Stanford has a real shot of making its senior class' mantra—“;Worst to First”;—a reality. In 2007, the Cardinal finished 3-25, and they have improved each of the past two years, including going 21-11 last season.

“;I've talked to some of the other coaches and they saw that they may be the best team out there,”; new Warriors head coach Charlie Wade said. “;I know we're ready to play someone different.

“;I love our practices. There's a good energy and we've made some real progress in the last month. We're solid at the middle and everyone's pretty excited about Jonas (Umlauft).”;

Umlauft is a highly touted 6-foot-9 freshman off Germany's junior national team. Before retiring last May, then-Warriors coach Mike Wilton felt Umlauft would be as good as Yuval Katz and Costas Theocharidis, both of whom were national players of the year.

“;A great player and a great guy,”; new associate coach Dan Fisher said of Umlauft. “;Even though he's a freshman, the guys are already looking at him as a leader.

“;We really like what we have seen in practices from everyone. They're competing hard and buying into everything the staff wants. Now it's time to go against someone else.”;

Among Hawaii's returnees are senior middles Matt Rawson and Steven Grgas, junior hitters Joshua Walker and Brennon Dyer, and sophomore hitters Steven Hunt and Gus Tuaniga. Junior setter Nejc Zemljak is being pushed by two players who transferred back after leaving last season: sophomore Sam Morehouse and junior Eric Fuchino.

The Warriors open the regular season with the Outrigger Hotels Invitational on Jan. 7-9. The field includes three of last season's final four teams in runner-up USC, Penn State and Ohio State.


Wade expects to fill his final staff opening, that of assistant coach, this week.