All of the preparation and all of the changes could not help the Hawaii volleyball team survive a "Thunder" storm.
Joe "Thunder" Sunder slammed 33 kills to power Penn State to a 25-23, 21-25, 25-22, 24-26, 16-14 victory in the Outrigger Invitational in the Stan Sheriff Center.
A night after being swept by Ball State in the season opener, the Warriors received improved play from corner hitters Jonas Umlauft and Joshua Walker. But their collective output was no match against Sunder, who put down five kills in the fifth set.
Sunder committed only five errors and hit .583 on an arm-numbing 48 swings.
"I’d be a lot better coach if I had a couple of those on my side," UH head coach Charlie Wade said of the Nittany Lions’ 6-foot-7 outside hitter. "He’s a really good player. It was a pretty well-played match. We out-hit them, out-blocked them, out-dug them. And Joe Sunder is the difference, for sure."
Sunder, a junior, has two hitting speeds — hard and harder. PSU coach Mark Pavlik said his staff has not been able to get an accurate reading of the velocity of Sunder’s spikes.
"All I know is, he hits hard," Pavlik said.
Sunder said he can touch 11 feet 10 off a standing jump.
"I pretty much aim for the top of the antennae when I set him," setter Edgardo Goas said. "It’s fun setting a guy you know will put the ball away, more often than not. He’s a beast. In capital letters."
Sunder said: "I’ve been swinging as hard as I can since my freshman year. I got used to it over the years. I learned to control it."
The Warriors found themselves in deep trouble, losing the third set and falling behind 16-12 in the fourth.
But their fortunes changed with a lineup change. Wade summoned walk-on Michael Thaxton to replace freshman middle blocker Shane Welch. Thaxton stabilized the block, then served three consecutive points to tie it at 16.
The fourth set seesawed after that.
But the Warriors took a 25-24 lead when Umlauft hit a spike that was blocked against the antennae.
Then Sunder, who had three errors to that point, hit wide to force the fifth set.
After the error-laden loss to Ball State, the Warriors studied videos of the match, then edited the game plan. Last night, they tinkered with the rotation, flip-flopping outside hitters Walker and Steven Hunt.
In the new rotation, Walker, a powerful pipe hitter, opened in the back row. In two rotations, he was matched in the front row with another senior, Brennon Dyer.
Hunt, meanwhile, was teamed twice with Welch in the front row.
More importantly, it allowed Walker and opposite attacker Umlauft to be next to each other in the rotation, giving the Warriors a 1-2 combination with their best hitters.
Wade said the switch was designed to give Walker more swings from the back row. The tradeoff is that it required Walker to pass more. It is acknowledged that Hunt is a more consistently accurate passer than Walker. Umlauft finished with 22 kills, and Walker had 15.
And that might have been enough against any other opponent.
"Joe Sunder put a nice resume for player of the year," Wade said. "That was an All-American tape right there."
In the opening match, UCLA held off a Ball State rally for a 25-22, 25-20, 23-25, 30-28 victory.
BSU, which swept UH in the first night of the round-robin tournament, surged from a 17-12 deficit to take a 23-20 lead in the fourth set.
PENN STATE DEF. HAWAII 25-23, 21-25, 25-22, 24-26, 16-14
Nittany Lions (1-1)
Key — s: games; k: kills; e: hitting errors; att: attempts; pct: hitting percentage; d: digs; bs: block solo; ba: block assists; pts: points (kills plus blocks plus aces)
Aces –Penn State (2): Mars, Comfort. Hawaii (3): Umlauft 2, Taxter. Service Errors — Penn State (20): Mars 5, Olsen 5, Sunder 4, Goas 3, Hendries, Comfort, Covello. Hawaii (15): Zemljak 5, Walker 4, Dyer 2, Umlauft 2, Hunt, Taxter. Assists — Penn State (61): Goas 52, Del Valle 5, Olsen 2, Hendries, Sunder. Hawaii (62): Zemljak 53, Biscaro 5, Castello 2, Welch, Walker. T — 2:41. Officials — Wayne Lee, Burt Fuller. A — 3,240.