Wilton suspends
4 Warriors

Azenha, Thomas, Delgado and
Dante won't play vs. BYU because
of a violation of team rules

It was a little less crowded at practice yesterday. There were 15 players instead of 20 on the Stan Sheriff Center floor.

Freshman setter Brian Beckwith was out with a throat infection, something that has bothered him since early last week. He's expected back today as the Hawaii volleyball team prepares for a critical Mountain Pacific Sports Federation series with No. 1 Brigham Young this Thursday and Saturday.

That will not be the case with four of Beckwith's teammates. Starting hitters Pedro Azenha, Delano Thomas and Jose Delgado -- the Nos. 1, 2 and 4 in team kills -- and reserve blocker Dio Dante have been suspended for at least this week after violating unspecified team rules.

The four will be allowed to return as early as next Monday, "but the ball is in their court," said Warrior coach Mike Wilton. He said the four will first have to meet certain stipulations before they will be reinstated.

"It was an easy decision for me," Wilton said prior to yesterday's practice. "It was hard in terms of deciding what should be done, but this decision has brought me peace of mind. Some things are more important than winning."

The suspensions have forced a major reshuffling of the lineup for Hawaii (13-5, 10-4 MPSF). Scheduled to start Thursday against the conference-leading Cougars (15-3, 13-1) are senior hitters Arri Jeschke (6-foot-2) and Ryan Woodward (6-3), and sophomore hitter Matt Bender (6-3).

Jeschke has the most playing time this season with appearances in 16 matches and was on the verge of replacing Delgado as a starter for this week, according to Wilton. Bender has been in 11 matches and replaced Azenha at opposite when the latter was injured and missed one road trip this year; Woodward has played sparingly in four matches.

The three replacement starters have a combined 84 kills and 10 aces. The three suspended players have a combined 679 kills and 77 aces, and an edge in height: Thomas is 6-7, Azenha 6-5 and Delgado 6-3.

"We've got a few players who are really excited, who aren't used to starting," said senior setter Kimo Tuyay, who could start in place of the ailing Beckwith. "They bring a little more emotion and that's what we need right now.

"It should be fun. The fans will see a different aspect of our team that they probably haven't seen before. I think it benefits us a lot. And, hopefully, I can be out there with them."

Woodward looks forward to the opportunity.

"I feel confident about starting," Woodward said. "The three of us have played together (on the second team) since September, so we know how each other plays. Any time you lose three starters, it changes things. Some people are going to have to step up this weekend."

It will be a tall order against the Cougars, who have won their last 14 matches, the longest winning streak in the nation.

"BYU is huge, they're a good, solid team all the way around," Bender said. "It's just another challenge for me. I played (high school) volleyball in Arizona. I've been playing against people who are bigger and better than me for a long time.

"We're playing with the same people we have been all season (in practice). It feels very natural to be out there."

There is one other change for the Warriors this week. Normally, film day is two days prior to a match. That has been moved to tomorrow.

"We first need to focus on what the heck we're going to do," Wilton told his players.

UH Athletics


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