Star-Bulletin Sports

Saturday, April 21, 2001


UH logo

UH Warriors,
Trojans in battle for
playoff survival

Hawaii and USC to clash in a
must-win for both programs

By Grace Wen

In this version of Cinderella, USC and Hawaii are the stepsisters of the story.

And they square off against each other.

The University of Hawaii men's volleyball team hosts Southern Cal in the first round of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation playoffs. It will be a rematch of last year's first-round match except that the contest will be fought in Hawaii at the Stan Sheriff Center instead of USC's North Gym. And the winning team doesn't get a prince but a likely semifinal match against top-ranked BYU, which hosts eighth-seeded UC Irvine.

The top eight teams in the nation play at various sites tonight in the first round of the MPSF playoffs. The winner of this regional qualifier receives the automatic bid into the NCAA tournament. The at-large berth will likely be awarded to the other team that reaches the MPSF final.

Some can argue that playing in the MPSF playoffs is tougher than the actual NCAA tournament. The top teams in the nation knock each other out before the final four even starts. As the current rankings indicate, by the end of the MPSF tournament, only two of the nation's top eight teams will be left.

"This is the time of the year to step it up," UH head coach Mike Wilton said. "All that should exist in anybody's mind is the match at hand. The teams that do the best job of that are the ones that advance and get to play again."

Neither Hawaii nor USC are favored in this tournament. That distinction belongs to top seed BYU. Right behind the Cougars are perennial contender UCLA and Long Beach State.

The 49ers have added incentive to win. Long Beach State is hosting the NCAA Tournament this year at the Pyramid.

The 49ers have won five straight and have momentum rolling in their favor, while Hawaii and USC are coming off losses.

UH lost two matches at BYU, while the Trojans were swept by tournament non-qualifier UC Santa Barbara. USC also lost starting outside hitter Eli Fairfield, who quit the team a week before the regular season ended.

"I think (momentum is) pretty important," USC coach Pat Powers said. "Hawaii is playing really well right now."

The Trojans have fared well in this tournament the last few years. Last year, the Trojans reached the semifinals but lost to Pepperdine. In 1999, USC lost in the finals to BYU.

UH Athletics
Ka Leo O Hawaii

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