Star-Bulletin Sports

Tuesday, April 20, 1999

R A I N B O W _ V O L L E Y B A L L

By George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin
Hawaii's Dejan Miladinovic and Chris Kosty, right, watch as
their block falls on Southern Cal's side of the net during
their match Friday night, which the Rainbows won to
clinch homecourt advantage in this Saturday's
playoff match against UCLA.

’Bows know Bruins

UCLA has spiked UH's title hopes
many a time; Hawaii gets another
chance to win one when it
matters this Saturday

By Cindy Luis


Mason Kuo was buried under a mountain of leis Saturday night at the Stan Sheriff Center. By his estimate, it was "more than 50, but it felt like 100," said the senior setter for the University of Hawaii men's volleyball team.

The Senior Night celebration is literally a wilting memory as Kuo and the Rainbows will next try to shed what has become a lei of thorns colored blue and gold. On Saturday, seventh-ranked Hawaii (18-9) hosts No. 3 UCLA (20-4), a team it has rarely beaten and never when it mattered.

Kuo is the last link to the Rainbow teams that advanced to the NCAA final four in both 1995 and '96. As a redshirt freshman, Kuo watched Hawaii lose at UCLA in the MPSF Tournament championship at Pauley Pavilion; the Rainbows never recovered and finished fourth the next week in Springfield, Mass.

The next year, the top-ranked Rainbows stumbled in the MPSF semifinal but still earned the at-large berth into the final four. Same place, same story -- Hawaii lost in five to the host Bruins.

"Perhaps it is a mental thing," said Kuo, who is 3-11 against UCLA in his five seasons. "It's like the last two times we've played them. For some reason, we have made a lot of mental errors, shot ourselves in the foot.

"They are always tough at home, and we've never beaten them there. But they're coming here and we've got to play for pride."

Hawaii is 8-34 lifetime against UCLA. The Rainbows have won just once in Pauley Pavilion, back in 1983 under Dave Shoji, who then coached both the men's and women's volleyball teams at UH.

"I like to play UCLA," said Hawaii coach Mike Wilton, who is 3-14 against the Bruins. "This year, the crew they have is real beatable. When we played them there (at UCLA April 2), it was a match begging for someone to take control. I don't think anyone took control. I think we gave it away."

It was a similar situation last Saturday when Hawaii lost to Southern Cal, 15-8, 8-15, 15-13, 5-15, 15-13. The Rainbows fell behind 5-1 in the rally-score Game 5 but rallied to take a 13-12 lead.

The Trojans capitalized on Hawaii's erratic passing to score the final three points. It was the Rainbows' first home loss in 12 matches; they are 15-2 at the Sheriff Center this season.

"It's been pretty much a breeze for UCLA the last two times we've played them," said Wilton. "I hope we can play hard, compete, not get ourselves into a hole like we did with SC.

"We'll have to be real tenacious and have better control of that first pass so we can stay in sync."

USC coach Pat Powers feels the UCLA-Hawaii match will come down to passing and who can dominate in the middle.

"It should be a good match," said Powers, whose team travels to Pepperdine for a first-round match. "Hawaii's strength is UCLA's strength. Both teams have great middles, although I think (Hawaii's) Andre Breuer and (Dejan) Miladinovic are the two best middles in the league.

"UCLA doesn't have great outside hitters, but they pass real well. That will be a problem for Hawaii. They didn't pass that well against us, but we also served pretty tough, too."

The outsides could end up being the key for the Rainbows. Opposites Brenton Davis and Clay Stanley combined for 48 kills in sharing the position Saturday night, but neither had the consistency Wilton would have liked.

"I think Saturday's game gave me a better idea of how to deal with certain situations," said Kuo. "We got a lot out of Saturday, even though we lost.

"This season hasn't been the greatest; we've been up and down," added Kuo. "But anything can happen in the playoffs. Maybe we'll put it together like we did last season -- late. Maybe we're on Hawaii Time."

E-mail to Sports Editor

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
[Stylebook] [Feedback]

© 1999 Honolulu Star-Bulletin