Warriors preparedThe word has been pounded into the heads of the Warriors all week.
Coach Mike Wilton has stressed
preparation in the days leading
up to the MPSF playoff opener
By Grace Wen
Hawaii coach Mike Wilton has stressed it, drilled it, and probably would have tattooed it across the foreheads of his players if he could.
Wilton hopes his efforts pay off today as second-ranked Hawaii opens with a 7 p.m. showdown against 12th-ranked Long Beach State in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation playoffs.
In other first-round matches, top-ranked Pepperdine hosts Cal State Northridge, third-ranked UCLA plays UC Santa Barbara and Stanford travels to fourth-ranked Brigham Young.
Unlike the Rainbow Wahine who have a very colorful past with the 49er women, the Warriors have no history in the postseason with the 49ers.
The last time the two teams played each other in February, both teams were trying to work out their kinks.
"We have gotten a lot better at a lot of things," Wilton said. "We've gotten better at defense, at transition offense. We had a major hiccup Saturday night, but that one gets back to preparation.
"When we take the pains to prepare, I've liked every effort we've had. There's effort involved in (preparing). It's not just practice. It's mentally preparing, like programming yourself to be successful in the match."
Wilton said Hawaii is putting the polish on and getting ready to shine. There's no better time to sparkle than the playoffs because if you lose once, you're out. Hawaii needs to reach at least the finals to be in contention for the at-large berth should it not win the tournament.
"We've just got to come out fiery," setter Kimo Tuyay said. "There's so much at stake. We're the No. 2 seed. We've just got to go out and prove it.
"There's all this final four talk, but we have to focus on this first game. If you can't get past the first playoff game, there's no final four at all."
Hawaii knows Long Beach has improved, but so have the Warriors. UH has a set lineup that produced positive results the last two weeks.
"The chemistry on the court has been nice," outside hitter Tony Ching said. "We didn't win on Saturday, but we still played decently as a team. If you look at our transition game and stuff, we played with good chemistry."
Chemistry for Long Beach State has been an uncooperative experiment. Some player mixtures have sizzled and others have fizzled.
Long Beach's split with Hawaii in February foreshadowed the type of season it would have. The 49ers' defeat the second night in Honolulu began a seven-match losing streak that included an inexplicable defeat to last place UC San Diego.
In their last five matches, the 49ers have been just as erratic, with a loss to UC Irvine and an upset of sixth-ranked UC Santa Barbara.
Long Beach State coach Alan Knipe hopes the 49ers' inconsistencies are behind them.
"Our last trip to Hawaii was a perfect example of our entire season," Knipe said. "We played real well the first night. The second night we didn't necessarily come out and challenge as well. We've been trying to address those things since we came home from Hawaii. Hopefully we're better now than the last time we were there.
"We're still playing eight or nine guys. And what has changed more than anything is that a team with no experience in this league starting this year has got a season under its belt now."
Knipe said that the Warriors are the most veteran-laden team in the country. But Long Beach won't be concerned with that. The 49ers' only concern is to play well on their side of the net.
Hawaii feels the same way.
"We have to focus on our game plan," Tuyay said. "We know a little bit more about how they play so hopefully that helps."
When: 7 p.m. today
Where: Stan Sheriff Center
TV: Live, KFVE (Ch. 5)
Radio: Live, KCCN 1420-AM
Notes: Long Beach leads the series 26-24. ... The 49ers have never won the conference tourney in its present form and appeared in the championship once (1993, 3-0 loss to Cal State Northridge). ...Hawaii has never worn the conference tournament either. The Warriors are 7-8 in the playoffs and reached the finals last year.
HAWAII (20-7, 17-5) Ht. KPG Aces Digs S Kimo Tuyay (So.) 6-2 0.38 6 116 MB Dejan Miladinovic (Sr.) 6-7 2.19 2 43 MB Delano Thomas (Fr.) 6-7 1.85 14 18 OH Costas Theocharidis (Jr.) 6-3 5.56 32 154 OH Eyal Zimet (Jr.) 6-2 2.59 10 133 OH Tony Ching (Jr.) 6-2 2.67 3 71 L Vernon Podlewski (Sr.) 5-8 N/A N/A 184 LONG BEACH STATE (9-13, 9-13) Ht. KPG Aces Digs S Mark Ekins (Jr.) 6-5 0.24 3 77 MB Tim May (Sr.) 6-8 2.79 10 21 MB David Lee (Jr.) 6-8 2.64 2 27 OH Scott Touzinsky (So.) 6-7 2.54 32 98 OH Jeff Wooton (So.) 6-5 3.25 20 137 Opp Matt Meine (Fr.) 6-5 2.32 14 52 L Phillip White (So.) 6-0 N/A N/A 53
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