Hawaii men's volleyball team jumps back into tough MPSF


POSTED: Thursday, February 25, 2010

Ever try to get on the H-1 freeway using the University on-ramp at 5 p.m. on a weekday? That's how the Hawaii men's volleyball team is feeling.

While the rest of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation has continued to beat up on each the past two weeks, the eighth-ranked Warriors have been in a holding pattern, watching the traffic. And it is gridlock in the MPSF.

Only 2 1/2 games separates the top nine teams and Hawaii (8-5, 4-4) would like to close that gap this weekend when hosting No. 4 Brigham Young (9-4, 7-3). The only split on the collective minds of the Warriors is that of the competition sites; tomorrow's match is at the Stan Sheriff Center and Saturday's is on Maui at War Memorial Gymnasium.

Although Hawaii will lose a bit of its home-court advantage Saturday — something BYU coach Shawn Patchell said he was happy about — “;it's a way of letting more fans become involved with us,”; Warrior coach Charlie Wade said. “;They'll see real competition and then we'll do a free clinic (Sunday). It's a good chance to meet the coaches and see the players on Maui.”;

“;Our fans aren't just limited to this island,”; senior hitter Joseph Strotman said. “;Instead of them coming to watch us here, why not go over there?





        » Who: No. 4 BYU (9-4, 7-3) at Hawaii (8-5, 4-4)

        » When: 7 p.m. tomorrow, Stan Sheriff Center; 5 p.m. Saturday, War Memorial Gymnasium, Wailuku

        » Radio: KKEA (1420-AM) both matches

        » TV: KFVE (Ch. 5) tomorrow only

        » Series: BYU leads 27-15

“;BYU is always good, it's always good competition whenever we play them. It's an advantage for us to have them here this year.”;

Home or away, the Warriors haven't had much success against the Cougars as of late. BYU has won the last six, is 12-3 since 2003, and holds the series lead at 27-15.

The Cougars lead the MPSF in blocks and digs, “;something that is hard to do,”; Wade said. “;You're usually good at one or the other, not both, and that's the statistics that really jump out at you.

“;They're big and they've done a couple of things we couldn't do. They split with Stanford and UCLA.”;

Hawaii lost twice to the Cardinal and Bruins, accounting for the Warriors' four MPSF losses. Wade feels his team has improved since falling to UCLA on Feb. 5, playing with better focus when sweeping Alberta on the second night of the two-match series and in the 3-0 victories over Hope last week.

“;Some of our guys have learned to be a little more present and focused in the moment,”; Wade said. “;Every match in our league is significant. All the teams are bunched up. No one is getting separation. We need to add to our wins and get in that mix.”;

One only has to look at last night's results to see how tight the league's title race remains six weeks in. Cal State Northridge won on the road against USC to break a four-way deadlock for first, and UC San Diego prevented UCLA from keeping pace with CSU Northridge when the Tritons picked up just their second conference win with a stunning sweep of the host Bruins.

BYU shares second with Pepperdine, half a game behind the Matadors. The Cougars feature two of the top blockers in the nation in sophomore middles Russell Lavaja (1.62 bps) and Kauai High product Futi Tavana (1.41).