MPSF slugfest rages on with Hawaii vs. Pepperdine


POSTED: Friday, March 26, 2010

It's been worth the price of admission all season long in Mountain Pacific Sports Federation men's volleyball.

Seeing the parity that has any team capable of beating another on any given night. Watching how one weekend of results can reverse the order in the middle of the standings.

But the fans in Firestone Fieldhouse today and tomorrow will get a bonus at no extra charge. No. 5 Hawaii against No. 2 Pepperdine should be entertaining enough, but the real show could be between two of the leading candidates for AVCA Newcomer of the Year: Warriors freshman opposite Jonas Umlauft and Waves freshman opposite Maurice Torres.

“;Potentially they're 1-2, and you'll get a chance to see them side by side to compare,”; Hawaii coach Charlie Wade said. “;Jonas has played great, his defense has been good, and he's noticeably stronger than he was even a month ago.”;

Umlauft is the reigning MPSF co-player of the week, earning the honor after helping the Warriors take two from Long Beach State last week. He had 18 kills Friday and 28 Saturday.






        Who: No. 5 Hawaii (14-7, 10-6) at No. 2 Pepperdine (12-5, 10-4)

        When: 4 p.m. today and tomorrow

        TV/Radio: None


        Series: Pepperdine leads 37-22

The 6-foot-8 Umlauft ranks fifth in the MPSF in points (kills, blocks, aces) with a 5.54 pps average. The 6-7 Torres is No. 8 at 5.03 pps, and has a triple-double on his young resume with 15 kills, 10 digs and 10 blocks in the 3-2 win over UC Santa Barbara March 13, the Waves' last match.

“;For me, (Umlauft) is the newcomer of the year,”; Pepperdine coach Marv Dunphy said. “;Maurice is improving, but he has a ways to go.

“;Hawaii has a good blend of talent and experience, with a bunch of good arms, particularly 7 (Joshua Walker), 5 (Steven Hunt) and 10 (Umlauft). The addition of their opposite (Umlauft) has made a difference. I voted Stanford and Hawaii the top two (teams in this week's AVCA national coaches poll).”;

Both teams are riding three-match winning streaks and both are coming off five-set marathon victories. But Pepperdine's happened nearly two weeks ago when outlasting UC Santa Barbara in five; Hawaii's five-setter was last Saturday over Long Beach State.

Dunphy, inducted into the AVCA Hall of Fame last December, said the break away from competition would affect his team.

“;The bottom line is, either you're good enough or you're not,”; he said.

With the exception of losing twice to current No. 1 Stanford on the first road trip of the season, Hawaii has done well away from the Stan Sheriff Center. The Warriors, who did not win a road match last year, are 4-4 so far.

More impressive, Hawaii came back to win the second match after losing the first night of the series at Cal State Northridge and USC. The Warriors also earned the tiebreaker over the Matadors (set differential) and the Trojans (point differential).

“;All the teams in the league are good and Pepperdine is no different,”; said UH junior Brennon Dyer, who replaced senior middle Matt Rawson (leg injury) at the end of Friday's match and started Saturday. “;They're a good team and we need to beat them.

“;With Long Beach, we finally got back-to-back wins. It was a good step in the right direction and we need to keep moving that way.”;

While many believed Hawaii would be in playoff contention this season, few outside of the Warriors' locker room thought the team would be where it is: poised to finish in the top four and host a first-round MPSF playoff match.

Same for the Waves, who are tied with top-ranked Stanford atop the MPSF standings. Pepperdine currently has the tiebreaker over the Cardinal—courtesy of a Feb. 19 sweep in Malibu, Calif.—but the Waves have to travel to Stanford on April 9, the first of four consecutive road matches to close the season.

“;All we want to do is get enough wins to get into the MPSF tournament and be good when we get there,”; Dunphy said.

Wade agrees.

“;Hosting would be huge, but it's still one match at a time for us,”; the Hawaii coach said. “;There's still a lot of volleyball left.”;