Thursday, March 18, 1999
By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
Andre Breuer has had a hard time playing up to
his All-American status this season.
a net gain
The UH volleyball team's middleBy Cindy Luis
blocker learned about the Rainbows
by surfing the net
Without the Internet, it's doubtful that Andre Breuer would have left home in Germany to wear a Rainbow volleyball uniform.
Without the fall of the Berlin Wall, it's doubtful that Breuer would have been allowed to leave ... period.
The junior middle blocker for the University of Hawaii was 14 when the unification of Germany took place. It opened so many doors of opportunity and freedom that, some 10 years later, Breuer was able to connect with the first American college he found on-line: Hawaii.
"It sounded like a good idea, to go abroad and study, just for the experience," said the 6-foot-9 Breuer, a member of the German National Team since 1997. "I started looking up colleges and the first one I found was Hawaii. It looked pretty nice, with the new arena and the attention that volleyball got.
"I found an e-mail for (assistant coach) Matt Johnson and started corresponding. It didn't seem real at the time that it would happen."
Talk about virtual reality. Within a few months, Breuer went from surfing the Net to surfing and dominating at the net halfway around the world.
"Breuer the Destroyer" -- as the Sheriff Center faithful have nicknamed him --earned first-team league and All-American honors last season. He led the Rainbows in kills and blocks, ranking in both categories nationally.
This season, Breuer severely sprained his right ankle in the season opener with UC San Diego. He was sidelined for three matches; both he and the seventh-ranked Rainbows are still recovering.
"It was bad timing to get hurt so early," he said. "We knew that chemistry was going to be the most important thing this season and that's the part we're still working on. It is kind of late in the season but it can still happen.
"Look at our last three losses. We've lost to Nos. 1, 2 and 3 (BYU, Pepperdine and Long Beach State). We have found out that we're not a 1-2-3 team right now but we can still become a very good team."
Hawaii (11-6) has nonconference matches with No. 17 Rutgers-Newark (11-11) tomorrow and Saturday at the Sheriff Center before finishing the season with eight conference matches. The Rainbows are percentage points of Southern Cal for second place in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation's Pacific Division; the top two teams in each division will host a first-round playoff match.
"That's what we have to worry about now, make sure we get second in the division," said Breuer. "The goal is to win the games that are coming up and make sure we get better from now on."
Breuer has been slowly building his numbers back up, with his block average nearing that of last season's (1.73 from 1.99 in 1998). But his kill average is way down (3.81 from 5.68), a function of Hawaii's struggling passing game.
"Andre's starting to put up some pretty good numbers but, when you're talking about a middle, their success is predicated on the setting and the passing," said Hawaii coach Mike Wilton.
"Andre's a wonderful young man but he's had a role thrust on him that's difficult to achieve. Because he was a first-team All-American and been on the German National Team, everyone expected him to be some kind of leader this year. It hasn't happened but I don't want to put the blame on him because this year has been a year thus far of some under-achievement.
"When you don't pass well, it's pretty hard to run the middle (attack)."
Breuer would like that to change, starting tomorrow. His parents, Renate and Wolfgang, are in Hawaii for the first time to watch their son play. Breuer has only six more home games; he will graduate in May with a degree in computer science and forgo his last year of eligibility.
"I hope people understand about my leaving from my perspective," said Breuer. "If I stayed, I couldn't complete a graduate degree in one year so it would make no sense.
"It's going to be tough to leave. I've had a great time here, found a girlfriend, enjoyed everything. Two years ago, I made a big step to come here and now it's time to make another step."
Breuer intends to return to his national team with the hopes of helping Germany qualify for the 2004 Olympics in Athens. Down the road there is more schooling with thoughts of owning his own computer-related company for international business.
"The computer world is changing so quickly and I know Hawaii is trying to get in on that," he said. "Maybe there will be the opportunity to come back and work here."
It's difficult, he said, to imagine where he will be in 10 years. But 10 years ago, he would have never thought he'd be playing in America.
"When the Wall came down, it was scary for me," he said. "Everything had been so certain. Volleyball was sponsored by the government. Jobs were assured. Everything on the East side was good and we thought everything on the West side was bad.
"When the Wall came down, we expected all the bad things to come to our side. Some of them did. My parents lost their jobs. But some of the good things came, too. Without it happening, I wouldn't be here.