The Hawaii volleyball team hopes a northern trip the past fall will be helpful for tonight’s match in southern California.
During fall training, the Warriors competed in a tournament in Canada.
"That helped a lot," said UH freshman middle blocker Shane Welch, whose Warriors play UC San Diego tonight and tomorrow night in La Jolla, Calif. "It showed us what to expect on the road."
The Warriors had a spirited 2-hour practice yesterday in preparation for their first road match of the season.
"It’s a different environment," UH setter Nejc Zemljak said. "You have to play in a different gym you’re not used to. Other than that, it’s still the same game. The court is still the same size. Same height of the net. We’re playing with the same type of ball. And it’s indoors."
There is one significant contrast. The Warriors have averaged more than 2,000 per home match. The Tritons are averaging 269 for five matches, with a low listed as "50" against Cal State Northridge. There was a high of 649 in attendance when the Tritons hosted Southern California.
"When you play at the Stan Sheriff Center, where the crowds are loud, and then you go to San Diego, where you might get 200 to 300 people, it’s going be really dead," UH outside hitter Joshua Walker said. "We have to bring our energy level."
Zemljak said the Tritons present obstacles. One of their victories was against UC Irvine, the preseason favorite. "If they can beat the No. 1 team, they’re good," Zemljak said.
The Tritons are the only Mountain Pacific Sports Federation team that often employs a 6-2 system, utilizing two setters. Mike Bruntsting, a 6-foot-5 freshman setter, often replaces an attacker opposite setter Phil Bannon in the rotation. The scheme is designed to improve the Tritons’ ball-handling.
"It maximizes our personnel in combination with what we need to do," UCSD coach Kevin Ring said.
The Tritons, who recently moved up to Division II, have been creative within the constraints of a tight budget. Although they are allowed to offer the financial equivalent of 4.5 scholarships, the Tritons are not fully funded. Instead, each player receives $500 for the year. That is a blip for a school whose average cost — tuition, room and board is $27,000 for a California resident.
"We don’t have the same resources as many of the schools in our conference, but once we go on the court, we compete," Ring said.