Stanford not afraid
of No. 1 UH

Cardinal coach Shaw calls the Warriors
"just one of the other teams in the league"

By Grace Wen

Top-ranked Hawaii opens Mountain Pacific Sports Federation conference play tomorrow against 12th-ranked Stanford.

On paper, No. 1 vs. No. 12 should be an easy win for the higher-ranked team, but coaches in the MPSF know better.

"It's a fine line between the top teams and the bottom teams in this conference, especially this year," Stanford coach Don Shaw said. "So anything is possible. On any night if you make a couple of mistakes, you can be a loser. If you make the plays, you're the winner.

"We played in the Santa Barbara tournament, which had eight MPSF teams. The difference between the No. 1 team and the No. 8 team was very slim. I think that's the way it is with any team in the league. Every team is good. Hawaii is just one of the other teams in the league. We're just trying to play better in this coming week than we did last weekend."

Stanford lost two heartbreaking five-game matches against BYU over the weekend. The Cardinal had match point a couple of times in Saturday's loss, but couldn't catch a break. Stanford (2-4, 0-2 MPSF) is reeling a bit, but Shaw knows that now is not the time to get bogged down in wins and losses.

College men's volleyball

Who: Hawaii vs. Stanford
When: Tomorrow and Friday, 7 p.m.
Where: Stan Sheriff Center
Radio: 1420-AM

"We're trying to improve each day," Shaw said. "It's a long season and it's still early in the season. We're just trying to play better than we did last time.

"The ratings in the beginning of the year are totally ridiculous. The ratings don't mean anything at this point. Teams have to go out there and play and play well."

If last season is any indication, then the home team should never feel totally at ease.

Last year, Hawaii (4-0) traveled to Stanford and knocked off the then-No. 2 Cardinal on consecutive nights. The Cardinal have plenty of incentive to play well this week in an arena that is kind to opponents.

"We were lucky to get some wins last year (on the road at Stanford)," Hawaii coach Mike Wilton said. "Everybody plays good down here. It's rare when somebody comes down here and doesn't play well.

"Nobody's yelling at them. They're giving them food, giving them leis and being nice to them. There's so much sweetness and aloha in the Stan Sheriff Center that people play good down here. Everybody comes down and plays great.

"They're going to be good. They have good players. (Curt) Toppel is back. He's banging the ball. They're going to be a good team."

But Stanford is very much a work in progress now. The Cardinal are tall -- their shortest starter is 6-foot-3 libero David Vogel -- but with the exception of the 6-8 Toppel, a first-team All-American last season, and setter Kevin Hansen, most of Stanford's current starters were part-time players last year. The Cardinal rotate four middles in and out of the lineup, depending on who plays well.

"We've been trying to search for a lineup. We lost a couple of key guys last year who happened to be our two best passers," Shaw said. "We're trying to find a lineup where we get good ball control and still have the strengths at the net. We've been doing a lot of experimenting early in the year. Sometimes when you do that, you're not going to be at your very best."

Stanford isn't the only one tinkering with its lineup. The Warriors will stick with the same starters for tomorrow's 7 p.m. match, but at least two of the positions aren't solidified.

Freshmen Pedro Azenha and Matt Motter introduced a few wrinkles to the lineup when both came off the bench and played well last Saturday in Hawaii's exhibition match against Shanghai. Azenha came in and relieved a struggling Eyal Zimet while Motter played tenacious defense in libero Jake Muise's place.

"We're always going to be monitoring," associate coach Tino Reyes said. "The bad thing about the libero spot is that you can't sub them during the game. You have to wait until the end of the game to do that, so we'll see.

"Motter's more cagey. He's a competitor. But he came in at the tail end of the passing group today (in practice). He's a good player. We have to figure out where we're going to play that kid. We'll give Jake the benefit of the doubt for now."

UH Athletics

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