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Wednesday, April 23, 2014         

WARRIORS VOLLEYBALL


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Warriors are hitting, but not winning

By Stephen Tsai

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The percentages, head coach Charlie Wade figured, should favor his Hawaii volleyball team.

"Usually you can tell the teams that are at the top of the league hit for a higher percentage as a team," Wade said. "We're kind of the exception to that right now, which probably means we're a little better than our record."

The Warriors, who play Pepperdine tomorrow and Saturday in the Stan Sheriff Center, are 4-6 against Mountain Pacific Sports Federation opponents this season.

The Warriors entered the week hitting .325 overall and .351 in MPSF matches. If the accuracy continues at this pace, the Warriors will have hit better than .300 for the first time since 2006, when they were at .342 in all matches and .356 in the MPSF.

The Warriors' three starting outside attackers — opposite Jonas Umlauft (.332) and left-side hitters Joshua Walker (.359) and Steven Hunt (.313) — are the first UH outside trio to each hit better than .300 in the MPSF since Lauri Hakala, Matt Carere and Jose Delgado in 2006. Since 2001, when rally scoring was implemented, Costas Theocharidis, Eyal Zimet and Tony Ching were the only other UH outside trio to accomplish that feat.

Hitting is calculated by subtracting attack errors from kills, then dividing that figure by the number of attempts. For outside hitters, .280 or better is considered to be good. For middles, who take fewer swings and usually face a solo block, .350 is considered a quality percentage.

"I wish our win-loss record was higher, but our team hitting is pretty good," Wade said. "We have to give our setter (Nejc Zemljak) a lot of credit."

Zemljak, a senior, and Umlauft, a sophomore, had bouts of inconsistency earlier in the year. But the connection problem has been resolved, and in last week's match against UC Irvine, Umlauft slammed 25 kills against two errors.

"I think Nejc is doing a good job distributing the ball to the pins," Umlauft said. "It takes time to get started. It was the same thing last year. Hopefully, we're at a point where we're getting better and better."

What also has helped is that Zemljak has fed the middle more. That threat often creates enough hesitation in sliding a second blocker to defend sets to the corners.

Also, Umlauft and Walker have become powerful back-row attackers — Umlauft from the right on D sets, Walker on quick pipe sets to the middle.

Walker, a senior co-captain, has improved since 2008, when he was a second-year freshman. In MPSF matches, Walker hit .232 in 2008 and 2009, then .296 last year.

"I've been working hard ever since the season ended last year," Walker said. "I expected to play much better. Even at this point of the season, I feel I could have played a lot better. I expect to play better as the season goes on."

Walker and Zemljak bonded during their redshirt year in 2007. In UH's practice system, the so-called "third court" in Gym I is where the redshirts and developing players practice when the first two units scrimmage.

"When nobody cared about us, we were working together," Walker said.

Both earned starting jobs in 2008. Last year, they had to adjust to the addition of Umlauft.

"Playing with Nejc a lot has helped me," Walker said. "We have that chemistry on the court."






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