Last year, the Hawaii volleyball team broke the ice.
Now it is hopeful of a breakout season.
"We seem so much further ahead than we were a year ago," Charlie Wade said of his first season as the Warriors’ head coach. "We know more about ourselves. We know each other better. We know who can do what. We know what we have coming back. We know there’s less uncertainty."
Three starters — middle blockers Steve Grgas and Matt Rawson and libero Ric Cervantes — completed their eligibility following the Warriors’ loss in the semifinals of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament.
Outside hitter Gus Tuaniga and setter Sam Morehouse are no longer on the team.
But Wade remains optimistic entering today’s start of training camp. This season’s Warriors will be introduced during the Ohana Volleyfest on Saturday night following the UH basketball game in the Stan Sheriff Center. The season opens Jan. 13 with the three-night Outrigger Invitational.
"We made a pretty good run last year, and we’ve got the core group coming back," Wade said.
The top three attackers — opposite Jonas Umlauft and left-side hitters Joshua Walker and Steven Hunt — and setter Nejc Zemljak return.
Umlauft was dominant down the stretch, with at least 20 kills in seven of the final nine matches. Umlauft worked on improving his block reads and serving during fall training. As a freshman in 2010, Umlauft led the MPSF in kills (5.29 per set), but averaged only 0.67 points per set in the other two point-scoring skills (0.44 blocks, 0.23 aces). Wade said he hopes that tweaks to Umlauft’s serve — higher toss, quicker approach — will create more scoring opportunities.
Walker’s hitting accuracy is matching his power. He averaged 4.32 kills per set last year, virtually the same as his 2009 production, but increased his hitting percentage from .239 to .310.
Wade said Nick Castello exited fall training as the No. 1 libero. Castello, who played for Maryknoll, attended Irvine (Calif.) Valley College the past two years.
Wade said senior Brennon Dyer has earned one of the middle jobs.
At 6 feet 4, Dyer is shorter than the prototypical MPSF middle. But he has a long wingspan and can touch 11 feet, 8 inches off a standing jump.
"He’s really a tough matchup for every other middle," Wade said. "He has a fast jump, and a fast arm. … He’s a deceptively good blocker because he has long arms and a nice jump."
Jarrod Lofy, a junior, started during UH’s exhibition tour to Canada. And Shane Welch, a 6-10 freshman from Florida, "came in and did great for us," Wade said.
The surprise has been Davis Holt, a 6-9 freshman middle from Maryknoll.
"He’s played great," Wade said. He’s really worked hard. We’d still like to redshirt him, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there."