POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Jan 24, 2011
That word epic gets thrown around an awful lot these days, so much so that I hesitate to use it at all. But it's hard to think of a better way to describe last night's five-set men's volleyball thriller between Hawaii and defending national champion Stanford at the Stan Sheriff Center.
So here goes: It was epic.
Well, even if you take all the overflowing emotion out of it, you have a back-and-forth battle with both teams displaying tons of talent and guts in a match that went nearly 3 hours.
The fourth and fifth sets produced more deuces than a playing card factory. This match had more comebacks than Sugar Ray Leonard and Brett Favre combined.
It just so happened that the final surge was by the Cardinal. If the fifth set were to 25, like the rest, then maybe Hawaii wins.
Then there was this, with which many who bleed green will disagree: Regardless which team came out on top on the scoreboard, a home team would win.
I had to laugh late in the first set when someone from the crowd yelled out, "Go home Stanford!"
Maybe he was being funny, because like a lot of us he knew seven players from Hawaii are on the Cardinal roster, including three starters. UH? Three and zero.
A good chunk of the Stanford players were home. And that was part of the problem for them on Friday, when UH won in a sweep, according to Spencer McLachlin, whose family home is two blocks from the UH campus where his mother, Beth, was an All-America volleyball player.
He went from perhaps the worst match of his life Friday to leading the Cardinal with 29 kills last night. "The other night I felt like I was visiting home. I was looking around, seeing which relatives and which friends came to watch. Seeing who's here. Tonight I just focused on the court.
"We felt like we disrespected our families (Friday), and most importantly, Stanford volleyball."
McLachlin's father, Chris, is a temporary Stanford assistant coach.
"The last time he hit negative might have been ... never," the father said. "I don't think he ever did before and he's been playing volleyball since he was 10 years old."
Chris was also the longtime UH volleyball TV color analyst. He and Beth are members of the UH volleyball booster club. Also, Hawaii women's volleyball coach Dave Shoji's son Erik starts at libero for the Cardinal, and another son, Kawika, was national player of the year when Stanford won the national championship last spring.
Like the players, Chris McLachlin has heard the implications and accusations of disloyalty to Hawaii for them going away, especially all to one school.
"It's not like we all sat down and said let's all go together," said Chris, who holds two degrees from Stanford and helped start the men's volleyball club program there. "I haven't defected."
Spencer McLachlin and Brad Lawson, the 'Iolani grad who had 18 kills, said they blocked out some nasty stuff directed toward them others heard coming from the stands.
These things work in cycles, and if UH volleyball continues in the direction it's going, it's inevitable some of the top talent from Hawaii will stay home and play for Charlie Wade's rising program.
Volleyball players seem to weigh academics heavily in their college decision, and UH's reputation continues to improve in that area, too.
In the meantime, no one can take that Friday night sweep of the national champs away from the Warriors. That was sweet for UH and its fans. And it doesn't mean you can't respect others who represent the 808 well, even if they're doing it from the 650 in Stanford.