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Pacific looks to engineer a victory

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It is appropriate that there are five Pacific volleyball players majoring in engineering.

The Tigers are in a building process.

WARRIORS VOLLEYBALL

MPSF match

» Who: No. 13 Pacific (7-12, 3-10) at No. 9 Hawaii (8-9, 6-6)

» When: 7 p.m. today and tomorrow

» Where: Stan Sheriff Center

» TV: KFVE (Ch. 5)

» Radio: KKEA, 1420-AM

"We’re young and inexperienced," said head coach Joe Wortmann, whose Tigers started three freshmen last week. "But they go hard, and they practice hard, and they’re really good guys. They’re buying into our new ethic. It’s a rebirth for us. The last couple of years were hard."

The Tigers do not have any senior starters. Their best attacker, opposite Taylor Hughes, is a sophomore. Their best passer and defender, libero Javier Caceres, is a freshman from Puerto Rico.

The Tigers, who play Hawaii tonight and tomorrow night in the Stan Sheriff Center, have lost six of their past seven matches. They have won three of 13 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation matches.

But Wortmann remains hopeful because the Tigers are doing well in two of volleyball’s most important areas — defense and passing.

Caceres, who is 5 feet 10 and 140 pounds — a "mere mortal" in size, Wortmann joked — leads the MPSF with 2.72 digs per set.

Sean Daley is fifth nationally in blocks (1.23 per set). Overall, the Tigers are No. 5 in the nation in blocking (2.83 per set).

"We’re working on the right things right now," Wortmann said.

And Hughes, who is averaging 3.66 kills per set, lists defense and blocking as his top priorities.

"He’s a superb blocker," Wortmann said. "He takes a lot of pride in his defense and his blocking. I think when you see a guy who’s 6-7 and jumps really high, you think he wants to kill every ball. But that doesn’t always happen. He wants to work on all areas of his game."

The Tigers appeared to have suffered a setback when their top assistant coach, Jeff Hall, left to accept a coaching job at UH last year. But Jonah Carson, who led UC Santa Cruz to four Division III final four appearances in six years, was hired.

"We share similar things we value about the way we practice and talk to the guys, and how we want them to talk to each other," Wortmann said. "We talk about the process, and we let everything else take care of itself."

The Tigers will be at full strength with the return of setter Patrick Tunnell, who missed the past two matches because of illness. Cory Leckie ran the offense in Tunnell’s absence, with the Tigers hitting .296 those two matches. In the 17 matches when Tunnell was the setter, the Tigers hit .230.

Meanwhile, the Warriors might again be without middle blocker Brennon Dyer, who missed the past two matches because of a sprained ankle.

But freshman Shane Welch played in place of Dyer, and the Warriors earned consecutive three-set sweeps of Pepperdine.

"We’re starting to develop a little depth for the first time this year," UH coach Charlie Wade said. "It’s nice to have some options if somebody is not playing well or somebody gets hurt."

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