POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Jan 27, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 01:36 a.m. HST, Jan 27, 2011
An essential part of the Hawaii volleyball team's title hunt is outside hitter Steven Hunt.
The Warriors departed yesterday for road matches against UC San Diego tomorrow and Saturday.
And while they are more confident following a split with defending national champion Stanford, continued improvement might hinge on their junior outside hitter from Toronto.
"Steven is a very important part of who we are again," setter Nejc Zemljak said. "In terms of passing, he's taking a lot of responsibilities. He's making a lot of important stops, a lot of important blocks. He's been getting a lot of digs. He's doing a lot more besides hitting."
In the Warriors' offense, Hunt is usually the third option — behind left-side hitter Joshua Walker and opposite attacker Jonas Umlauft — and, possibly the fourth choice, if the middle blocker is available.
"In general, people aren't keying on him," associate head coach Dan Fisher said. "That's the kind of guy who's pretty dangerous."
Hunt is averaging 2.26 kills per set with a vicious right-armed swing.
"There's no questioning his arm speed," Fisher said. "He's a very terminal player."
But Hunt's most effective assets are his forearms.
"He's our best ball-control outside," Fisher said. "He has a lot of serve-receive responsibility."
When opponents serve, Hunt and libero Nick Castello usually divide the back row.
"We can free up Josh and let him focus on hitting," Castello said.
In five matches this season, Hunt has made 131 successful passes with one error, an efficiency of 99.2 percent.
"He's a great passer," Castello said.
In volleyball's version of the give-and-go, Hunt is capable of passing to Zemljak, then slamming the return set.
In most volleyball defenses, the libero is positioned in the back left. Because of Hunt's quickness, Castello plays middle back while Hunt often defends the angle shots in the back left.
"He's always been a good passer," Fisher said. "But since we've been here (in the summer of 2009), it's something he's focused on quite a bit. He keeps getting better at it. Passing is something you usually get better at slowly. He's improved in that. He's improved his blocking. He comes into the gym every day and works hard. He's a very competitive player. He's the guy who, last year, whenever we put him on the second team, he wasn't happy about it. He worked extremely hard. He was never content unless he was on the starting team."