Hawaii's Jose Delgado, Delano Thomas and Joshua Stanhiser celebrated during a match against UCLA on Feb. 28. The Warriors ended up losing, the first of a three-match losing streak.

Warriors looking to
end 3-match skid

Turhan Douglas won't guarantee a win over Hawaii tomorrow or Tuesday. But the Southern California coach can promise one thing:

The USC band will be in North Gym when the unranked Trojans (6-12, 4-7) host the No. 2 Warriors (11-5, 8-4) in two Mountain Pacific Sports Federation contests. The aging 1,000-seat gym is "quaint," according to the description given by the USC sports information department.

Hawaii at USC

When: Tomorrow and Tuesday, 5 p.m. Hawaii time.

Radio: Live, KKEA 1420-AM

TV: None

Series: Tied 25-25. Hawaii has won the last six meetings.

Next up: BYU at Hawaii, March 18 and 20

It's loud, more cramped than Hawaii's Klum Gym, and is a huge home-court advantage for the Trojans -- even if the Trojans would rather play elsewhere, such as the 14-year-old Lyon Center (1,600), where the women's volleyball team has its matches.

"No one is happy about playing in North Gym," Douglas said. "But we can't get the Lyon Center except for weekends."

Location hasn't bothered the Trojans as of late. They've won four of their last six, including three straight: a sweep over Pacific in the Lyon Center, a 3-1 win over Lewis at North Gym on Monday and a 3-1 win at UC San Diego on Thursday.

USC also picked up a 30-27, 30-27, 30-28 victory at Cal State Northridge on Feb. 11. The Matadors defeated the Warriors twice this week, both matches going to four.

"We saw the Hawaii-Northridge match Wednesday," Douglas said. "They looked like they were having some problems with Northridge's jump serves. The inability to pass meant they couldn't run the middle, which is a huge strength for them.

"Hawaii is so athletic, one of the most gifted teams in the country. They put up a big block. Delano (Thomas) can hit over the block and Pedro (Azenha) is very strong. The key for us will be to serve tough and keep their middles out of the game."

After two disappointing seasons where they did not make the conference playoffs, the Trojans appear to be on their way back. Turhan, in his second year as head coach, has had to be patient.

"I think we've finally found the right group, the right combination of players," he said. "They've been able to play together for a few years and they now have confidence that they can win.

"We're not a big team. Our ball control and our ability to pass well has played a big part in our wins."

USC has also served well, led by Brazilians Joao Grangeiro (20 aces) and Pedro Leal (13 aces). Grangeiro, a 6-foot-2 sophomore hitter, also leads the team in digs (139) and is second in kills (3.23 kpg).

Douglas is also pleased with junior Blake Tippett, a 6-4 hitter averaging 3.63 kpg. The Trojans have two setters available in junior J.T. Gilmour (9.59 apg) and reserve freshman Gio Altamura (8.07 apg).

"I think we're on the way back," Douglas said. "Winning three in a row has really helped our confidence, which is half the battle. It's much more fun when you win.

"I'm having fun this year. It's always a challenge, especially in recruiting. We want to win another national championship."

The football team winning a share of the national championship has helped the recruiting part, according to Douglas. The success of the women's volleyball team (NCAA titles in 2002 and 2003) has also added to the trickle-down effect.

"Everyone wants to go where the winners are," he said. "If a kid is making a decision between two schools, and they know they'll have a great time here, it helps."

USC could be considered the wild card in the conference, but it's turning out that on any given night any team can win. On Friday, Pacific had a 2-0 lead at UCLA only to lose to the Bruins in five; Pepperdine took host Long Beach State to five on Friday, also losing the last game.

"Gosh, the league is crazy," Douglas said. "There is no easy match."

Hawaii has learned that the hard way. The Warriors have lost their last three, their longest losing streak since 2000.

The team worked out at North Gym yesterday afternoon and was hosted by a UH alumni club afterward. UH has today off, with several of the players from California spending time with their families.

"Practice was good," Warrior coach Mike Wilton said. "North Gym is the same as always.

"The key for our guys is to get the losses out of the memory banks. Against Northridge, we played a team that played their best volleyball of the year. They were slightly better than us."

Wilton said the keys to winning tomorrow and Tuesday will be -- as usual -- passing and serving.

"SC has good ball control and they've got guys who can bring it with their serves," he said. "If we bring our game, we'll be fine.

"When you look at the league right now, I think of the movie 'Last Man Standing.' It's going to be that way until the end."

Wilton said he'll go back to his usual starting lineup, which includes freshman setter Brian Beckwith. Beckwith yielded to senior Kimo Tuyay in Game 1 on Friday against Northridge.


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