[ UH VOLLEYBALL ]
Hawaii can host a playoff
opener by winning twice
With two matches left in the regular season, the playoff picture for Mountain Pacific Sports Federation volleyball is still blurry. No team has clinched the title -- Pepperdine is at 18-2, UCLA 17-3 -- and one game separates the four teams trying to earn the last two hosting spots: Hawaii and Brigham Young at 13-7, and Long Beach State and UC Santa Barbara at 12-8.
For the Warriors, this week's equation is simple: two victories equal being in the Stan Sheriff Center on April 23.
"It's as clear as it gets," UH setter Brian Beckwith said yesterday. "We have put ourselves in this situation and now we need to come out of it in a good way by staying home for the playoff."
Hawaii closes out the regular season Friday and Saturday against Pacific, a team playing for pride. The Tigers, at 6-14, were eliminated last week from playoff contention and will finish either ninth or 10th in the 12-team conference.
But the Warriors will not be taking UOP lightly. The Tigers have wins over Long Beach State and Brigham Young, the latter of which topped Hawaii twice.
"Pacific has nothing to lose and it's always dangerous to play a team that has nothing to lose," said Warrior hitter Pedro Azenha. "They are not coming here for a vacation. They'll play hard and there's no pressure on them.
"The pressure is on us. We want to win and we have to win. But we're playing good, playing with confidence. We're feeling good about the playoffs."
Helped by a split last week at Long Beach State, Hawaii moved up two spots to fifth in yesterday's USA Today/CSTV Coaches Top 15. The team spent Monday reviewing tape of the Warriors' impressive sweep of the 49ers on Friday.
"That was a big confidence booster," UH hitter Matt Bender said. "Our block was solid, our defense played around our block, we were taking smart swings. We played the way we needed to and the way we need to keep playing."