Hawaii's Vernon Podlewski, Brian Nordberg, and Kimo Tuyay (left to right) celebrated a point in last season's five-set victory over Lewis.

Champs ready
to start season

Wilton hopes the Warriors avoid another
early season letdown against Lewis

By Grace Wen

Besides physical drills in practice, defending national champion Hawaii has been on the receiving end of a different kind of drilling.

Since the Warriors began practice last week, the coaches have implored them to take this week's opponent seriously. Hawaii opens its season against Lewis tomorrow and Friday at 7 p.m. at the Stan Sheriff Center.

The Warriors were caught flat-footed by the two Midwest teams it faced last January. Loyola-Chicago handed the Warriors a 3-1 loss in the home opener and Lewis nearly pulled off the upset in a five-game thriller a week later in the Outrigger tournament.

"We're trying to get that point across. For sure, some of our players have a tendency to low-rate people," Hawaii coach Mike Wilton said. "They did that last year mistakenly because Lewis was horrible the first night (against Penn State) and then they played more like themselves the second night.

"They're a really good team. In fact, there are people who expect them to be the champions of the Midwest this year."

The Midwest contender has all seven starters back, including two-time All-America Fabiano Barreto and 2002 AVCA Libero of the Year Ryan Stuntz. And Lewis has an eighth experienced player in Gustavo Meyer.

The Mexico national team member was expected to complement Barreto on offense last season but was ineligible to play in 2002. The sophomore will sit out six more matches but when he returns, Dave Deuser is confident the Flyers will be at another level.

"Once we're at full strength and if we stay healthy, anything short of us winning the MIVA and really challenging at the final four would be under achieving as far as I'm concerned," Deuser said.

The All-Americans are surrounded by seasoned players in every position and have more talent overall than Deuser's last final four team.

Lewis hasn't been part of the final week of volleyball since 1998, when it was held in Honolulu.

The Flyers are a cohesive group led by junior setter Jose Martins, who runs a smart and accurate offense. Sophomore outside hitters Victor Bird and Jeff Soler are the only underclassmen in the lineup, but they gained valuable experience last season.

Deuser is confident that his team will be more poised if faced with another five-game situation with UH.

"When we're passing the ball, I will stack up our offense against anybody in the country because this is Jose Martins' third year setting," Deuser said. "He has sped things up and he's very deceptive.

"Some of the things we did this preseason offensively just blew away what we've done in the past because they're used to each other.

"These guys know each other better," he added. "They know what to expect out of each other and how much to push each other. The chemistry is good because these guys are really familiar with each other."

The Flyers arrived yesterday afternoon after an 11-hour journey from Chicago. They started practice last Thursday and can't think of a better way to start the season.

"Obviously opening against the defending national champs, who return a lot of their starting lineup, is a tough test," Deuser said.

"I expect to see where we're at.

"I know where we can be by midseason, I'm really curious to see where we're at against a quality team this early on."

Hawaii vs. Lewis

When: Tomorrow and Friday, 7 p.m.
Where: Stan Sheriff Center
Radio: 1420-AM
Tickets: Available at the UH box office or by calling 944-2697

UH Athletics

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