DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hawaii's Delano Thomas and Costas Theocharidis went up to block a Stanford shot last night.
UH beatsPerhaps Stanford coach Don Shaw was right.
Stanford in 4
The Warriors outlast the
Cardinal in a sloppy match
By Grace Wen
Maybe there is only a slim difference between the top and bottom teams of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation.
It certainly seemed that way last night as top-ranked Hawaii was only marginally better then 11th-ranked Stanford. The Warriors played to the level of their opponent and allowed the match to be an ugly contest in volleyball futility full of missed serves (29 total) and balls that no one wanted to take on both sides of the net.
Before a sparse crowd of 3,608 at the Stan Sheriff Center, Hawaii outlasted Stanford 30-28, 30-27, 27-30, 30-28.
"Stanford played great and we were horrible," Warriors' coach Mike Wilton said. "I must have not prepared my team very well. We had a little trouble executing the game plan. The raw fundamentals of the games, just the passing was horrible again. It got better again late."
The Warriors needed 11 of the 12 players that suited up, but turned to their seniors in the end. Costas Theocharidis (26 kills, .455) and Tony Ching (20 kills, .484) topped the kill list again for Hawaii.
All-American Curt Toppel led the Cardinal with 25 kills, in spite of the bandaged broken thumb on his left hand.
The Cardinal (2-5, 0-3 MPSF) had opportunities in every game but couldn't close. Stanford dropped its third conference match in a row.
"That's the way it's been. It wasn't the prettiest match of all time but that's just the way it goes," Shaw said. "If our blocking defense is decent, we're going to give teams a hard time. But it came back down to the end. Those three games we lost, we were in position to win all three of those.
"So there's a fine line between coming out here and winning and coming out and losing. We need to do a better job of executing and finishing the job when we have a lead. In all those games, we were ahead in the mid-20s. When you've got that lead, you got to keep it and make plays to finish it. We didn't. I give Hawaii credit for making plays."
The Warriors didn't make plays in the beginning.
It took 27 minutes for Game 1 to be played, but it felt much longer. The Warriors trailed the entire game before catching the Cardinal at 19 after two Stanford mistakes. From there, the game went back and forth before a kill by Eyal Zimet gave the Warriors a 27-26 advantage. Hawaii got a gift from Stanford when Paul Bocage served into the net to give the Warriors game point. Sophomore Delano Thomas and Kimo Tuyay stuffed Billy Strickland for the game.
Hawaii never got a handle on Stanford middles Bocage and Chris Ahlfeldt, who blasted by the block and had four kills apiece in Game 1. But the Warriors limited All-American Curt Toppel, who had a bandaged right hand, to one kill and a -.400 hitting percentage. Ching was the only hitter having any kind of success at the net, smacking six kills and hitting .714 in Game 1.
Toppel shook off a terrible first game and crushed seven kills in Game 2. The Cardinal looked to be in control of the game after taking a 27-22 lead after an ace by William Curtis. What happened next seemed improbable.
With Ching at the service line, the Warriors ran off six straight points off two kills from freshman Pedro Azenha, two kills from junior Josh Stanhiser and two Cardinal hitting errors. When Stanhiser crushed the ball to give Hawaii a 28-27 lead, the comatose crowd erupted in ovation. After a Cardinal timeout, the Warriors closed out the game on a solo block by Theocharidis and an ace by Ching.
Individually, Hawaii looked good in Game 3, but as a team the Warriors were scrambling all over the place and waiting for somebody else to get the ball.
The Warriors blew a 25-21 lead and let the Cardinal back into the match in a reversal of the second game. Strickland served seven straight points, including an ace, as Hawaii's passing crumbled. The Cardinal had back-to-back blocks, including Toppel's solo stuff of Ching to reach game point first. Hawaii had one final chance to pull out the game when Thomas went to the serving line. The sophomore caused one overpass before misfiring into the net to give Stanford the game.
Setter Daniel Rasay gave Hawaii a lift in Game 4 when the Warriors got down early again. Freshman Matt Motter came off the bench to help too. The game turned into a slugfest between Theocharidis and Toppel. The Stanford senior ripped eight kills to 11 for Theocharidis. The Warriors squeezed out the game on kills from Ching and Theocharidis.
Hawaii and Stanford meet tomorrow at 7 p.m. for the final of the two-match series.
Note: Former libero Vernon Podlewski finished his playing eligibility last year but continues to serve Hawaii in different functions. Podlewski joined Vili "The Warrior" Fehoko in entertaining the crowd yesterday.
"Coach asked me do to it," Podlewski said. "He asked the only one that's not all there to do this."
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