Sunday, March 11, 2007

Volleyball: Still Not Worried

Okay, now it's coming down the stretch to the MPSF playoffs. The Rainbow Warriors have yet to win a match since playing USC on February 16. They're currently in 10th place in the MPSF and 14th nationally. And this past weekend, they battled another #1 team: Pepperdine.

Sounds like a death sentence right?

Far from it. As I said earlier, the MPSF is the toughest conference in collegiate volleyball with the top 4 teams shifting places constantly. That UH had taken its place among the top 4 constantly if not consistently in the past...I don't know how many years, and is now at its lowest ranking ever, I'm still not worried about our team.

It seems that everyone in the MPSF are stepping up their game and loading up on talent this year. It's anyone's guess, even more so this year, as to who will be MPSF champs, or the NCAA champs.

But back to my team: back in Jan., we started the season playing UC Irvine who were #1 at the time. I have to say that UCI was very impressive last year and I was one who expected them to hold #1, maybe #2 throughout the season, even in the very volatile MPSF.* We lost both matches.

After the win against USC, the 'Bows [forgive me, my favorite cheer is still "let's go 'BOWS!"] were on the road to play two matches against the #4 BYU, who had been #1 just the previous week. We lost both matches [it was difficult to listen to that over the radio].

Then they came home to play the Alumni match. Mom and I were in attendance as Coach Wilton rested his seniors (Beckwith, Hakala, Kalima, Dante). It was different and still very fun! Usually I get tickets in the Student Rooter section (near the band), but since the Alumni match was reduced price, Mom and I sat in the lower section, almost in line with the net. I have 20/20 vision still, so the players' faces weren't any clearer for me. The upper official blocked my view of the net though, so I couldn't see any blocks happen.

However, the crowd was small and quiet compared to a near-capacity crowd, so I could hear the players talking on the court. Eyal and Costas were electric as teammates again; Costas even let out an "Oh, YEAH!" as he bumped a perfect set. Tory Tukuafu entertained the crowd; whenever the ball came over to the alumni side, he'd yell out "SET ME! SET ME!" Kai Kahele lost his shoe and Leoni, without his old trademark lion's mane but with the trademark headband, fired things up from the service line. The night was complete with a rotation error by the alumni and someone in the crowd shouting, "Let them play!" but both sides battled it out.

And then back to MPSF matches and to current #1 Pepperdine.

Pepperdine swept on Thurs. night, winning 30-28, 30-18, 30-28. I watched from home, cheering loudly at the TV screen, probably to the annoyance of neighbors. I watched as Beckwith pointed to the camera before tossing up the first serve of the night. I watched him use a much improved and effective jump serve; Hakala back at Opposite, the position which kept people at the edge of their seats last season; and they came so close and so far to winning games 1 & 2.

Saturday's game was 100% more exciting. Even though Beckwith still had to run around a bit, he fired things up with that jump serve again, an inspiring effort with several delicious sets to the hitters, getting his MB's in the act more often, and, after a dislocated finger early in game 4, served up rockets, still put up amazing sets and hustled more than...I don't know, it was just great to watch!

Freshman Matt Vanzant had a great match with 24 kills, just 8 errors, hitting .364! And now that he's getting rather consistent, you know he's just going to get better every time!

On the injury list with wana stuck in his foot, Dante played as if he was just a kid playing with his buddies: all fun, no work, zero worries. 7 kills, 1 error, .400. Kalima, listed as having the flu, must've had some mana on tap; with Cervantes stepping up big time at the L-pos., it left Kalima free to get in some swings at the net. [the full stats are even more impressive]

We lost the match, 30-28, 19-30, 28-30, and 28-30.

So the Rainbow Warriors are primed for making a run on the rest of the season (about a month left) and showing up for the playoffs. If ever there was a season that I wish I could've afforded season tickets, this would be it. Yet, I haven't missed a second of it, and don't plan to, even from home.

*I'm not just saying that because local boy Brent Asuka (Iolani) is back playing Libero for UCI (2006 MPSF newcomer of the year, first-team all-American, all-MPSF). Even though, like a good local, I am proud of our local people making the national stage, but Mom'll tell you that I don't support every single one JUST because they once lived in Hawaii. Case in point: that guy on AmIdol who lived in Kauai for four years and did a terribly fake tourist hula on his AmIdol video. I didn't vote for anyone yet, but I would've voted for him to be booted if I could've. And UCI, phenomenal so far.