Relying on gritty defense and Jonas Umlauft’s powerful right arm, Hawaii weathered Cal State Northridge’s early middle attack en route to a 19-25, 25-21, 25-21, 25-21 volleyball victory last night at the Stan Sheriff Center.
A crowd of 2,086 watched the Warriors vault into a fourth-place tie with UC Irvine in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation. The Warriors, 13-11 overall and 11-8 in the MPSF, already have clinched a berth in the league’s eight-team postseason tournament. The MPSF’s top four teams host opening-round matches.
The Matadors played in the 2010 NCAA final four. But they lost five seniors from that team, a transition that is reflected in their record — 6-19 and 4-14.
But in the first set, with their revised lineup — Matt Stork moved from setter to outside hitter three weeks ago — the Matadors dominated, especially with a ferocious middle attack.
The Warriors could not slow Greg Faulkner and Drew Staker, both of whom feasted on quick sets from Kapaa High alumnus Danny Rodrick.
During the break between the first and second sets, the UH
coaches decided to replace Brennon Dyer with Jarrod Lofy at one of the middle spots.
Lofy and UH’s other middle, freshman Shane Welch, were able to tip some of the best shots by Faulkner and Staker.
And any spike they did not deflect seemingly was tracked down by libero Nick Castello.
"I thought Nick Castello had his best match of the year," UH coach Charlie Wade said. "He had a bunch of digs. It was good to see."
Castello, a first-year Warrior who transferred from a junior college in August, admittedly was inconsistent with his defense. In the three practices leading to last night’s match, Castello spent extensive time working on his passing, footwork and anticipation. During intrasquad scrimmages, Castello would be pulled from the first team if a ball dropped in front of him.
"They gave me some extra incentives in practice," Castello said. "It made me want to play harder."
Castello conjured 13 digs, a season high. He also passed 26 serves without an error.
"I was really frustrated in the past," Castello said. "I knew I could play better defense. This whole week, they’ve been drilling me on defense. The hard work paid off."
It also was contagious. In the second set, Welch opened in the front row. For the final two sets, Lofy, who is more of an offensive threat, started in the front row.
"You can’t argue with results," Lofy said.
Welch finished with seven blocks, and Lofy contributed four rejections. Faulkner, who was able to hit over the UH block in the first two sets, was rejected four times.
Part of the reason the Warriors reclaimed the middle was improved serving; part was the active defense by Lofy and Welch. Both were able to gamble more knowing that Castello would be able to get to shots past the front line.
The Warriors did not need to make any adjustments on offense. Opposite attacker Jonas Umlauft, the nation’s most productive point-scorer, amassed 28 kills and hit .488. Left-side hitter Joshua Walker contributed 14 kills.
NO. 9 HAWAII DEF. CS NORTHRIDGE
19-25, 25-21, 25-21, 25-21
|Matadors (6-19, 4-14)|
|Warriors (13-11, 11-8)|
Key — s: games; k: kills; e: hitting errors; att: attempts; pct: hitting percentage; d: digs; bs: block solo; ba: block assists; pts: points (kills plus blocks plus aces). Service Aces — CSUN 4 (Stork 3, Nua). Hawaii 4 (Walker 2 Hunt, Zemljak). Service errors — CSUN 21 (Lebrocok 6, Rodrick 4, Nua 3, Faulkner 2, Jo. Baxter 2, Staker 2, Je. Baxter, Staker). Hawaii 11 (Walker 5. Umlauft 2, Zemljak 2, Biscaro, Dyer). Assists — CSUN 55 (Rodrick 50, Stork 3, K. Baxter 2). Hawaii 50 (Zemljak 43, Hunt 3, Castello 2, Lofy, Welch). T — 2:08. Officials — Wayne Lee, Ernie Ho. A — 2,086.
|x-UC Santa Barbara||10||8||.556||61/2||13-11|
|x-Long Beach State||10||9||.526||7||12-12|
|UC San Diego||5||14||.263||12||9-17|
x-clinched MPSF tournament berth
x-clinched MPSF quarterfinal berth
z-ineligible for postseason
Hawaii def. CSU Northridge 19-25, 25-21, 25-21, 25-21
BYU def. Long Beach State, 25-23, 25-21, 25-22
Pepperdine def. Pacific, 25-14, 36-38, 25-19, 19-25, 15-13
UC Irvine def. UC Santa Barbara, 27-29, 25-18, 25-19, 25-14
UC San Diego def. UCLA, 25-21, 25-21, 25-22
USC def. Stanford, 25-22, 21-25, 25-22, 25-22
CSU Northridge at Hawaii, 7 p.m
USC at Pacific
Pepperdine at Stanford