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UH heads to Pauley
It's a little more personal for Hawaii setter Brian Beckwith, who chose to play for the Warriors over the Bruins. He is one of the few recruits to get away from UCLA coach Al Scates.
"It was a tough decision," said Beckwith, whose mother works at UCLA. "I've been a Bruin fan all of my life.
"But Hawaii ... you can't beat the atmosphere out here. It suited my lifestyle."
Beckwith and the Warriors went 1-2 against the Bruins last season, splitting their two MPSF matches in Honolulu. UCLA won the one that counted: the MPSF first-round match at Pauley Pavilion.
"I know the arena well," Beckwith said. "It's big, kind of like the Stan Sheriff Center, but since they don't have that many fans (680 average), you end up playing in a big, empty arena.
"Still, it's difficult to play there. UCLA has won a lot of big matches there. There's a lot of history in that arena."
The Bruins (14-1, 10-1) have won nine of their 18 national championships on their home court and, including this year's 8-0 record, are 332-54 at Pauley.
Hawaii is 4-19 at UCLA. However, the Warriors (10-1, 8-0) are more concerned about the present than the past, especially the Bruins' current lineup. UCLA has switched setters since its only loss (at BYU on Jan. 28) and has played around with different combinations at opposite hitter.
Last Thursday against Stanford, it was Punahou School product Brennan Prahler who had 15 kills in his second start of the season. Last Saturday against Pacific, the Bruins went back to Steve Klosterman, who had been benched for two matches when hitting .089 with just 34 kills in 25 games.
Klosterman, a teammate of Beckwith's on the U.S. junior national squad, replaced Prahler in Game 3 and finished with 17 kills.
The Hawaii coaches aren't sure who they will see in the beginning tomorrow, the senior Prahler or sophomore Klosterman.
"But Al knows that, in the long run, they'll need Klosterman," UH assistant coach Aaron Wilton said.
For the Warriors to stop the Bruins, they'll need to handle UCLA's tough jump serves. Out of UCLA's 65 aces, senior middle Paul Johnson has 18, senior hitter Kris Kraushaar 17 and senior middle Allan Vince 14.
"It's the usual Bruin deal," Hawaii coach Mike Wilton said. "They are consistent, sideout well and have a good middle attack. They're a team that's been together for a while.
The 6-foot-8 Johnson leads the team in kills (3.36 kpg), is hitting .489, and has 75 blocks (12 solo/63 assist). Senior hitter Jonathan Acosta is averaging 2.96 kills.
Hawaii's lineup will be the same as the one used last Friday against Southern California. The Warriors are led by senior opposite Pedro Azenha (4.54 kpg, 15 aces), junior hitter Matt Bender (3.38 kpg) and junior middle Mauli'a LaBarre (2.73 kills, 62 blocks).
"UCLA is obviously real well-coached," Beckwith said. "They don't make too many mistakes.
"It's going to come down to serving and passing. Whichever team does the best at those things will win."
Note: The only loss for either team was to Brigham Young. Hawaii has won eight since falling to the Cougars in four for the championship of the Outrigger Hotels Invitational on Jan. 7. The Bruins have won seven since the 3-1 loss at BYU on Jan. 28, the night the Cougars hung their 2004 NCAA banner.