The past two days, the Pepperdine volleyball team has practiced behind closed doors on the Punahou School campus.
The sequestered workouts cannot shield what is an open secret: The Waves are in a continuing fight for serve-receive consistency.
» Who: Pepperdine (6-7, 4-7 MPSF) at Hawaii (6-9, 4-6 MPSF)
» When: 7 p.m. today and tomorrow
» TV: KFVE, Ch. 5
» Radio: KKEA, 1420-AM
Their best passers a year ago — libero Sean Grubbs and outside hitter J.D. Schleppenbach — completed their eligibility at the end of the 2010 season. Schleppenbach’s successor, junior Chase Ross, started the first eight matches this season before suffering a serious ankle injury.
"It is what it is," Pepperdine coach Marv Dunphy said. "That didn’t help."
Ross has not played the past five matches.
"We knew going in, we’d have to replace our passers (this season)," said Dunphy, whose No. 9 Waves play No. 10 Hawaii tonight and tomorrow night at the Stan Sheriff Center.
Dunphy filled one opening with libero Mike McMahon.
"He’s a young freshman we threw in the mix," Dunphy said. "He’s gotten lots of time. For his first time through (the regular season’s double round robin), he’s been good. We’re expecting big things from him. He knows he needs to get better, and we’ll do whatever we can to help him."
Beau Vandeweghe, nephew of former NBA player and general manager Kiki Vandeweghe, has started the past five matches at one of the outside-hitting positions. The Waves are 3-2 in those matches. While Vandeweghe has had up-and-down performances — hitting better than .500 against Southern California and Cal State Northridge, but having negative-percentage accuracy against Stanford and Long Beach — he has been a consistent passer. He has been burned for only two receiving errors in 109 serves, a success rate of 98.2 percent.
The other outside hitter, Cory Riecks, has focused more on defense this season. The side effect is Riecks’ offensive production has slipped to 2.21 kills per set this season.
Opposite attacker Maurice Torres leads the Waves in kills (3.96 per set), but is hitting only .248.
The Waves opened the season with two nonconference victories against Ohio State, then lost their first five Mountain Pacific Sports Federation matches. Since then, they have won four of six.
The Warriors, meanwhile, are a mathematical enigma. They are 4-6 in the MPSF, having lost three of their past four matches, despite being second in hitting (.351) against league opponents. The Warriors’ three pin attackers — opposite Jonas Umlauft and left-side hitters Joshua Walker and Steven Hunt — are each hitting better than .300 in the MPSF.
"They have a ton of great hitters," Dunphy said. "Their attacking numbers are really good. I’m not surprised at all. I’m impressed. We know those guys. We saw them last year in the (MPSF) playoffs. They have good arms. I think their setter (Nejc Zemljak) is very good. He’s an important part of their team."