"There's an aura about the place, about their teams. It's something they've earned over the years. And it makes it that much sweeter if you can go in and pull it off."

Aaron Wilton
UH volleyball coach, on Pauley Pavilion

No. 3 UH faces
top-ranked UCLA

Once would have been enough for Aaron Wilton. Just to beat UCLA once at Pauley Pavilion.

The top-ranked Hawaii men's volleyball team -- with Wilton as a senior outside hitter -- came oh-so close in 1996. The Warriors were two points away from their first NCAA title when leading the host Bruins in Game 4.

A controversial call by an official late went against UH, giving the ball and the momentum to UCLA. The Bruins went on to win 15-13, 12-15, 9-15, 17-15, 15-12 in a match that lasted 3 hours and 27 minutes, and one in which UCLA ran its postseason home record to 24-0.

Nine years later, Wilton has one word for that cold May 4 night: "Painful."

"It was painfully close," the Warrior assistant coach said. "It's all a blur now but ... it's still painful to think about."

Wilton and the Warriors were 0-4 at Pauley Pavilion in his four years. Since 1981, UH is 4-20 at UCLA, with three of those wins coming after 2000.

"There's an aura about the place, about their teams," Wilton said. "It's something they've earned over the years. And it makes it that much sweeter if you can go in and pull it off."

No. 3 Hawaii will have two chances to do that this week when facing top-ranked UCLA Friday and Saturday. The Warriors (10-1 overall) lead the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation standings at 8-0, but Hawaii has not played the four teams directly below them, including the Bruins (14-1, 10-1) and second-ranked Pepperdine (9-1, 9-1).

"UCLA is a great team, very well-rounded, and they are not going to make a lot of mistakes," Wilton said. "They have very good outside hitters and serving is a big part of their game.

"We'll have to take some very tough jump serves and be patient, because they will make runs. We just have to weather the storm."

Hawaii's last visit to Pauley Pavilion was more of a tidal wave as UCLA swept the Warriors out of the MPSF playoffs with a 30-24, 30-24, 30-28 first-round victory.

"No, I was not real happy about that last trip," Warriors head coach Mike Wilton said. "I'm looking forward to this. It will give a chance to see where we are right now."

The Warriors are coming off two wins over Southern California last week. Hawaii struggled in five last Thursday, but swept the Trojans in three Friday, shaking off the rust of not having played in 12 days.

"It was good to get the 3-0 win over USC because it took away any uncertainty we might have had about ourselves," sophomore hitter Lauri Hakala said. "We didn't play at our level that first night.

"Everyone wants to beat UCLA and I'm pretty sure UCLA wants to beat Hawaii, too. Two of the best teams in the nation are playing those games. We have to be ready for them."

Hakala likely will make his second collegiate start against the Bruins. The first-year player from Finland replaced junior outside hitter Jose Delgado in Game 2 of Thursday's match against USC and started against the Trojans on Friday.

Even though this will be Hakala's first trip to UCLA, he said that the Bruins' reputation precedes them.

"I guess you could say they are notorious, if my (English) vocabulary is correct," Hakala said. "In Finland, if they know of one university in the States, it's UCLA, especially their reputation for good track and field athletes.

"I understand rivalry. It's like a Finn going against a Swede. You always want to win."


MPSF standings

MPSF Overall

W L Pct. W-L
Hawaii 8 0 1.000 10-1
UCLA 10 1 .909 14-1
Pepperdine 9 1 .900 9-1
UC Santa Barbara 8 4 .667 8-7
Long Beach State 7 4 .636 9-5
Pacific 3 4 .428 9-5
CSU Northridge 4 7 .363 6-7
UC Irvine 4 7 .363 6-10
Brigham Young 2 4 .333 7-6
Stanford 3 6 .333 4-8
USC 1 8 .111 3-12
UC San Diego 0 11 .000 0-12

Cal State Northridge at Pepperdine
UC San Diego at Pacific
UC Santa Barbara at USC
UC San Diego at Stanford
Hawaii at UCLA, 5 p.m. HST
Cal State Northridge at USC
Long Beach State at Pacific
UC Irvine at BYU

USA Today/CSTV Coaches Top 15

(First-place votes in parenthesis)
School Record Pts. LW
1. UCLA (16) 14-1 240 1
2. Pepperdine 9-1 219 2
3. Hawaii 10-1 210 3
4. Penn State 12-2 189 5
5. Long Beach St. 9-5 170 4
6. UC Santa Barbara 8-7 159 7
7. Brigham Young 7-6 146 6
8. CSU Northridge 7-8 127 8
9. Stanford 5-9 110 9
10. UC Irvine 6-10 93 10
11. Pacific 9-8 74 11
12. Loyola-Chicago 12-1 70 13
13. George Mason 8-0 42 14
14. Ohio State 10-4 36 12
15. Lewis 7-6 21 15

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