Thursday, February 15, 2007
At this moment, our #12 UH Men's team lost last night to #14 USC. We play them again tomorrow night. If we lose again, we'll drop more spots. As it is, we're at the bottom third of the MPSF.
To put it in perspective, the MPSF is the strongest conference in college men's volleyball. UCSD, who is typically last in the MPSF, made us work for the two match wins last season. They were not going to give up. This is a conference in which the top five teams have been known to jump around and switch places. USC, at #13 in the first 2007 poll, beat #3 UCLA in 3 games; that's a sweep! Last year, UCLA started at #2, fell half-season to #9, and crawled back up the rankings to win the NCAA tournament (finishing #1).
Even though we lost five seniors, we began this season at #4. Following that, we've been #5, #3, #9, and now #12. The five seniors [Alfred Reft (L), Matt Carere (OH), Johnny Matt Bender (OH), Jose Delgado (OH), Mauli'a LaBarre (MB)] were all good players in their positions and it should be tough to fill in those spots. That we started at #4 says a lot about the talent on the team. I have faith in our guys to finish out on top this season.
So don't count Hawaii out just yet. [For more about the team]
Brian Beckwith, setter, SR: Became a freshman starter in '04 when the previous setter was injured; hasn't really given up the position yet. He twists and turns and gives his hitters great opportunities to get us a point. In the match last week against UCSB, Beckwith faked UCSB out by going up as if he was going to go for the kill himself but instead gave a quick set to Dante in the middle for the point. Last match against USC: 32 assists, 2 services aces, no service errors, 5 digs, 2 block solos, 1 block assist, and 1 kill hitting 1000! It was exciting to watch.
Lauri Hakala, hitter, SR: The "Flying Finn" is co-captain this year with local boy Eric Kalima. Injured at the moment, everyone is waiting for him to get back on the court. If you have to ask why, then you have not seen him move in for a kill. When he lifts off, reaches back, and pounds the ball, he hits it so hard that the ball disappears! Even in instant replay slowing down, you will miss it if you blink. Even though he is out for the next few games, he'll be back and meanwhile is doing a good job of being captain, cheering on the team from the sidelines.
Eric Kalima, libero/hitter, SR: The other co-captain, I have to point this guy out because of the dive he took into the stands last year. If that isn't hustle and heart, I don't know what is. I would like to see him get a few kills, but he's doing a great job at libero. I remember a few years back, watching a game, every so often you could hear among the chants, "Put Eric in! Put Kalima in!" I'm glad his family/fans are finally seeing Kalima in.
Dio Dante, middle blocker, SR: The Maui-boy is leading his team where he's supposed to, in blocks. Plus, he also does a nice job of putting the ball to the floor, especially when he gets those quick sets from Beckwith. I suppose it helps being 6'8".
James Clar, hitter, SO: Of the underclassmen, I'm excited to see this guy get time on the court. He's filling in nicely on the right side. He's as explosive and quick as Hakala.
I'm a vb fan, not a players fan, but those are the guys that I'm watching this season. Carney does a good job at setting, I'm assuming they put him in sometimes because after 4 years and with all the ties Beckwith has to coaches and players on the other teams, the others haven't had a chance to study Carney much and won't know his tendencies as much as they know Beckwith's. And usually when he's in for serving, Carney rarely missed last season. I've always liked the quicker system that our team uses with tall blockers and the shorter (6'0-6'2) hitters flying above the net from all areas of the court.
I'm going to the second match against USC. Their game in which they swept UCLA was exciting! But look for me in the green rooting for the 'Bows!
(Picture from Star Bulletin, issue: Feb 15, 2007)