POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Jan 12, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 08:41 p.m. HST, Jan 12, 2011
Think accurately passing a 60-mph volleyball serve is difficult?
"It's tough to replace somebody who was such good-
caliber. At the same time, it makes you want to play harder and live up to it."
- Nick Castello
That is barely a speed bump in libero Nick Castello's trek to the Hawaii volleyball team's starting rotation.
Castello attended Assets School after being diagnosed with dyslexia.
"Growing up, people would always finish before me in tests," Castello said. "I learned to live with (dyslexia), and take my time, and do my own way."
Because Assets did not field a volleyball team, he was allowed to compete for Maryknoll School. At the time, Maryknoll did not have a gym. That meant practicing at Palama Settlement Gym or on Maryknoll's outdoor tar court.
"We called it the sky dome," Castello said. "On a windy day, it sucked. No diving, either."
He attended Grace University in Iowa for a semester, then transferred to Irvine Valley College, where he started for two seasons.
"But home is where the heart is," said Castello, who transferred to UH this past summer.
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» Tomorrow: No. 8 UCLA vs. No. 10 Penn State, 4 p.m.; No. 14 Ball State vs. No. 5 Hawaii, 7 p.m.
» Friday: Ball State vs. UCLA, 4 p.m.; Penn State vs. Hawaii, 7 p.m.
» Saturday: Ball State vs. Penn State, 4 p.m.; UCLA vs. Hawaii, 7 p.m.
» Where: Stan Sheriff Center
» TV: All matches on KFVE
» Radio: Hawaii matches on KKEA, 1420-AM
Then Castello, who is majoring in American Studies, faced two math problems. At the start of fall training, with tryout players and invited walk-ons, there were eight liberos competing for the job as Ric Cervantes' successor.
What's more, Castello needed to pass six classes to earn enough credits toward a degree to be eligible for the 2011 season.
The Warriors ended up keeping five liberos -- two are expected to redshirt this year -- and of the group, associate head coach Dan Fisher said, "Nick is the best defender, for sure."
While each of the candidates is an accurate passer, Fisher said, Castello holds the edge in quickness, positioning and the ability to make more digs.
"Then you take it to the other skills," Fisher said. "He's a former setter. When the setter digs a ball, we need somebody to step in. He's the best at that. ... When you take passing, which is very close, and you factor in all of the other things, and the intangibles -- he has good presence on the court -- he's the guy right now."
Castello acknowledged there would be heavy competition for one of the few vacated starting positions.
"It's tough to replace somebody who was such good-caliber," Castello said. "At the same time, it makes you want to play harder and live up to it."
Castello also did well in the classroom. He earned 19 credits in the fall.
"I got a 3.0 (grade-point average)," he said. "Now that I'm older, I'm taking school more seriously, too. When you walk in the gym, there's no stress now. Life is better now."