In a sport with no RPI, the Hawaii volleyball team is not R.I.P.
The Warriors went 0-3 in the season-opening Outrigger Invitational. Although one of the losses came against UCLA, also a member of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, it does not count in the league standings.
And because NCAA men’s volleyball does not use the RPI – ratings percentage index – to determine the final four participants, the at-large berth is expected to go to a second MPSF team.
"If we were a college football team, yes, our season would be over in terms of winning the national championship," UH head coach Charlie Wade said. "But in our season, there’s no RPI. We have a 22(-match) league season that clearly defines you. It’s how you do over those 22 matches – and that’s a long time – that determines your (postseason) chances. In sports that have an RPI, there’s no chance if you have a bad start. We have time."
In Thursday’s match, the Warriors were admittedly over-anxious in losing to Ball State. They played well against Penn State the next night – earning advantages in hitting percentage, blocks and digs – but were no match against PSU outside hitter Joe "Thunder" Sunder’s 33 kills. Saturday night, without opposite attacker Jonas Umlauft, who was suffering from a stomach virus, the Warriors lost in three sets to UCLA.
Wade said the Penn State match was more indicative of the Warriors’ potential.
"In our league, you have to be productive for a long time to win the match," Wade said. "And some nights, that’s just not good enough. You can play well, but not good enough, and that was the case Friday."
After last season, the Warriors lost three key players – libero Ric Cervantes, and middle blockers Matt Rawson and Steven Grgas. Wade said Nick Castello solidified his place as Cervantes’ successor.
"That question has been answered," Wade said. "Nick did a nice job every night."
Welch, a 6-foot-10 freshman, started at one of the middles, but had uneven results.
"He’s going to be a good player," Wade said of Welch. "But at some point, you have to have some production, and we do have some other guys who have been training hard and doing well in practice."
Michael Taxter, a freshman who redshirted last season, came off the bench to replace Welch and provide stability in the middle Friday and Saturday.
"I was definitely nervous getting in for the first time," Taxter said. "After a while, you definitely get used to it."
Wade said Taxter is "a guy you have to have in your program to be good in this league. But, again, he’s a freshman."
Welch, meanwhile, said he expects a better showing when the Warriors play defending NCAA champion Stanford on Friday in the Stan Sheriff Center.
In a self-evaluation of the Outrigger, Welch said, "I felt I could have played a lot better, and shown better attributes on the court."
Setter Nejc Zemljak, a co-captain, said there is "a little bit of bitterness" about the slow start.
"We cannot go back and change it," Zemljak said. "There’s no point in getting all upset and sad and mad or whatever. We showed some weaknesses. We’ll work on them. They’re fixable."