Seniors close
at home with USC

Four Hawaii players try
to finish regular season by
extending win streak to 13 games

By Grace Wen

It's not time for the one-and-done mentality, yet.

That will be next week, when the Hawaii volleyball team hosts a first-round Mountain Pacific Sports Federation playoff match. But the second-ranked Warriors can't be too relaxed for their final regular-season matches tomorrow and Saturday against USC (6-23, 2-18 MPSF). The first serve is 7 p.m. for both matches.

While the rest of Hawaii's playoff-bound conference foes have been battling with post-season ferocity, the Warriors (21-5,15-5 MPSF) have been coasting through matches and winning with their superior talent.

Hawaii might have stretched its win streak to 11 last weekend, but it wasn't a convincing performance for a team attempting to repeat as national champions. The Warriors swept UC Santa Barbara the first night but struggled mightily the second night when their serving disappeared.

"We can't be the way we were last weekend. We're trying to end that kind of stuff. That was a collective yawn," Warriors coach Mike Wilton said. "Maybe that's kind of understandable. We've been playing at a really high level ever since the 21st of February. It was understandable -- not enjoyable, but understandable. I don't think there's a player who feels very good about how we played last weekend.

"Everyone is in playoff mode already because they have to. There's four teams that are in and there's five fighting for the remaining four. Every match is huge. It's senior weekend (for us). We have four great guys and we want them to go out in style."

Last year's seniors didn't. Former Warrior standouts Dejan Miladinovic and Vernon Podlewski ended the regular season with a loss to Brigham Young but concluded their careers with a victory when Hawaii won the national title three weeks later.

This year's seniors are hoping for a similar result. Tony Ching, Brian Nordberg, Costas Theocharidis and Eyal Zimet will be honored following Saturday's match and they don't want to head into the playoffs with a loss.

"Hopefully, my senior night will be on May 3rd, the night of the national championship," Ching said. "This is going to be something special. My whole family is coming out to watch."

Theocharidis thinks the Warriors will be motivated in spite of their opponent.

"It's senior night. That's a great motivation for us. We'll have fun and play well. (USC) is going to come out and play hard and play well in front of the Hawaii crowd," Theocharidis said. "The past month, we haven't had the competition we had the previous month. That's why we kind of dropped to the level of our opponents.

"The only way we can stay up at the level we were at ... is if we practice as hard as possible. Everyone is trying hard to make the playoffs. That's why they're up."

The Trojans are just the opposite of up. USC has lost nine of its last 10 matches. The Trojans' 23 losses this season broke the school record for defeats (22) they set last year. USC will miss the playoffs for the second year in a row but could close the season on a high note. The Trojans have a few wins indicative of that possibility. Last month, USC defeated No. 7 Cal State Northridge and No. 5 Lewis.

Senior Josh Day, a Kamehameha alumnus and a high school teammate of Ching's, leads the Trojans in hitting percentage (.393) and blocks (1.10 per game).

UH Athletics

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