Tuesday, January 8, 2002
Hawaii volleyballFour words run along the bottom cover of the Hawaii volleyball team's media guide -- "The time has come."
starts up tonight
The Warriors set goals high
for the season, which opens at
home against Loyola-Chicago
By Grace Wen
Hawaii coach Mike Wilton said he had nothing to do with selecting the theme, but he agrees with it. With almost as much talent returning this year as the 1996 team that reached the NCAA championship, Wilton knows all about heightened expectations.
"It's time for us to achieve our potential," Wilton said. "We came close to doing that last year. There seems to be this constant aura surrounding this team that if they don't win the national championship, the season's not a success. We've got high goals of course, but we're going to do the best job of living in the present."
That's exactly what his players are saying as they open the season tonight against Loyola-Chicago at 7 at the Stan Sheriff Center.
Hawaii middle blocker Dejan Miladinovic wouldn't answer questions about how the Warriors will fare this season. The senior would only talk about the team's current condition.
When: 7 p.m. today and Wednesday
Where: Stan Sheriff Center
TV: Live, KFVE-TV (Channel 5)
Notes: It is the second time in three years that Loyola-Chicago has come to Hawaii...the Warriors won both matches in 2000
Class Ht. S Kimo Tuyay So. 6-2 MB Dejan Miladinovic Sr. 6-7 MB Brian Nordberg Jr. 6-5 OH Costas Theocharidis Jr. 6-3 OH Eyal Zimet Jr. 6-2 OH Tony Ching Jr. 6-2 L Vernon Podlewski Sr. 5-8
Class Ht. S Shane Davis Jr. 6-4 MB Dan Haas Jr. 6-8 MB Shawn Schroeder So. 6-9 OH Brad Stoub Sr. 6-4 OH Justin Schnor Jr. 6-4 Opp Tim O'Brien Sr. 6-5 L Dan Kellum Jr. 6-5
"We're in shape. The rust is off," Miladinovic said. "We're ready to play. Everybody is very excited about starting the season. We just have to transform that energy into points."
It has been six years since Hawaii last played in a final four, and last season's conference final appearance only meant that there would be lofty goals for this year.
The ingredients seem to be there to meet those goals with five starters back, including 2001 AVCA Player of the Year Costas Theocharidis.
Unlike last season, there's no real question mark in personnel. Torry Tukuafu and Brenton Davis have completed their eligibility, but the holes have been plugged. Hawaii has a proven go-to-hitter in Theocharidis and a second year starter at setter in Kimo Tuyay. The Warriors will have solid passing and serving from Eyal Zimet, who is playing pain-free for the first time in his UH career.
Miladinovic and Vernon Podlewski were defensive standouts last season and should be again this year.
Transfer Brian Nordberg is slated for the other middle blocker position, while junior Tony Ching and freshman Jose Delgado are battling for the third outside hitting spot.
The Warriors aren't much taller and will probably have four guys on the court who are 6-foot-3 or shorter. Size wasn't much of an issue last year, because UH usually made up for it with quickness and scrappy defense.
The Warriors have beefed up their roster from 12 to 17 players, which makes for more competition in practice.
Finding the right court chemistry between the newcomers and the veterans is key. It doesn't seem to pose a problem, at least in Theocharidis' mind.
"It's a special feeling," Theocharidis said. "I believe this team is going to go all the way this year. The difference is a couple of guys in the lineup. They click really well with this team."
Another brutal road trip awaits the team in March, with eight of 10 matches in Southern California. But last year's team showed it could win on the road.
Even if Hawaii hosts the conference playoffs (a decision will be made later this month), the Warriors need to be tough away from home.
Penn State is hosting this year's final four.
SetterKimo Tuyay (6-2, So.), Daniel Rasay (6-2, Fr.)
After setting Hawaii to the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation finals in his rookie year, the job is Tuyay's to lose. The MPSF Co-Freshman of the Year averaged 12.84 assists a game and ranked 10th in the nation in assists. The sophomore seems more confident on the court and should have Hawaii in the hunt for another MPSF division title.
Rasay, a redshirt freshman, won the backup role in the fall and will see some court time.
Outside HitterCostas Theocharidis (6-3, Jr.), Eyal Zimet (6-2, Jr.), Tony Ching (6-2, Jr.), Jose Delgado (6-3, Fr.), Matt Bender (6-3, Fr.), Jeff Gleason (6-3, Jr.), Ryan Woodward (6-3, Jr.)
Wilton is secretive about who will start at outside, but Hawaii will probably use a three outside-hitter rotation instead of having a true opposite.
One thing's certain, Theocharidis will be the focus of the offense. Zimet should contribute more than passing and defense, since he's playing without injury for the first time in two-and-a-half years. Ching and Delgado will battle for the third spot.
As the first player off the bench Ching averaged 2.14 kills and made up for his lack of height with a huge vertical jump. He had surgery on his right shoulder in October to repair a torn ligament but has come back more fit and smarter on the court. The injury forced him to develop a wider range of shots, which should make him a more complete player.
Delgado was the prize of the recruiting class, and Wilton said that in a pinch, he can be used in any of the outside hitting spots.
Middle BlockerDejan Miladinovic (6-7, Sr.), Brian Nordberg (6-5, Jr.), Delano Thomas (6-7, Fr.), Geronimo Chala (6-6, Jr.)
Miladinovic led the country in blocking and is Hawaii's first line of defense. Nordberg was an all-conference selection before transferring from UC Santa Barbara. The junior has the edge over Thomas, who has physical gifts that still need to be refined, Wilton said.
Chala broke his right ankle in two places in the fall but has completely recovered and should be in the mix.
LiberoVernon Podlewski (5-8, Sr.), Jake Muise (6-0, So.), Marvin Yamada (5-8, So.), Kyle Denitz (6-0, Jr.)
Podlewski beat out Muise for the job last season and was the top defensive player in the conference. Muise will be pushing hard to win back the spot after improving his ball-handling skills.