As a travel industry management major who grew up within an hour’s drive of Austria’s Alps, Croatia’s coast and Hungary’s lowlands, Hawaii volleyball player Nejc Zemljak knows the importance of location.
Location also is valued in his role as the Warriors’ setter.
In the aftermath of the Warriors’ 0-3 implosion in the past weekend’s Outrigger Invitational, Zemljak has worked intensively on better locating sets to outside attackers Jonas Umlauft, Joshua Walker and Steven Hunt.
"Our location wasn’t great," said head coach Charlie Wade, whose team plays defending NCAA champion Stanford tomorrow and Sunday at Stan Sheriff Center. "We have to get better at that. One of the ways we’ll get better is just recognizing situations."
Part of the Warriors’ problem was circumstantial. In the opener against Ball State, the Warriors battled overanxiousness. Against Penn State, they had no answer for Joe "Thunder" Sunder’s 33 kills. Against UCLA, they were without Umlauft, who had a stomach virus
Perhaps of greater concern was the Warriors’ attempt to force a faster-paced offense.
"The whole thing about wanting to go fast is it has to be the right situation," Wade said.
When passes are outside of the 3-meter line, the set should be higher to the pins. Accurate passes can be parlayed into quick sets to several spots.
"I don’t think we did a really good job over the weekend of recognizing that," Wade said. "There was anticipation we wanted to go fast the whole time. You certainly saw us make an inordinate number of errors."
But with the return of Umlauft and renewed focus, Wade said, the offensive glitches are correctable. Wade also expressed confidence that Zemljak, who was selected as floor captain, can adapt.
"He’s good at every skill," associate head coach Dan Fisher said of Zemljak. "He doesn’t have a weakness in his game. His knowledge of the game is at a high level. It sets him apart."
Indeed, Zemljak has a history of acclimating easily. In his native Slovenia, he played indoor and beach volleyball from an early age.
In Slovenia, many of the "beach" courts are, in essence, sand boxes built in diverse areas, including downtown.
"A lot of time the sand is different because it’s imported," Zemljak said. "Sometimes the courts become a little bit harder."
He said beach volleyball develops the sport’s all-around skills. That changes when the sport moves indoors.
"Once you go inside, you have to take it to another step," Zemljak said. "When you go to indoor, at least in one skill, you have to upgrade."
Then again, Zemljak appears to welcome challenges.
He speaks four languages — Slovenian, German, English and Serbo-Croatian — and is learning French.
"I know he’s been working on his Canadian, too," Wade said, smiling.
In addition to volleyball and school, Zemljak, who is pursuing a master’s degree, works two part-time jobs.
"That’s a generation-wide thing," Zemljak said. "We grew up multitasking, going from tennis lessons to piano lessons. We grew up with schedules. We are known as the multitasking generation."