The Hawaii volleyball team went with the percentages in efficiently dismissing Cal State Northridge 25-19, 25-23, 25-19, last night at the Stan Sheriff Center.
Led by opposite attacker Jonas Umlauft and left-side hitter Joshua Walker, the Warriors buried a season-best 54.3 percent of their swings to complete a two-match sweep of the Matadors.
With two matches against top-ranked Southern California remaining in the regular season, the Warriors moved into sole possession of fourth place in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation. The Warriors are 14-11 overall and 12-8 in the MPSF. The top four teams host opening-round matches in the MPSF’s postseason tournament.
For the Warriors, it came down to what coach Charlie Wade termed "volleyness."
"Our overall ability to volley and get into rallies — volleyness — was as good as it’s been since we’ve been here," said Wade, who is in his second season with the Warriors. "We spend a lot of time just rallying and moving the ball around. We said for a long time, if we create rallies — the more guys we can get creating rallies — the better for us. We know we have guys who can end rallies."
The finishers could be found at the corners. Umlauft slammed 21 kills in 36 swings. Walker had 20 kills against one error in 27 swings, giving him a career-best .704 accuracy.
"Volley the ball," Walker said. "That’s the way to get point-scoring opportunities for us. If we can keep the ball alive, we’ve got a chance. That’s what we pride ourselves on. Me and Jonas know if we get a set, and we need to get a kill, we’re really confident in transition."
UH middle blockers Jarrod Lofy and Shane Welch were able to get their fingertips on many of the Matadors’ hardest spikes. Libero Nick Castello and outside hitter Steven Hunt then were able to feed setter Nejc Zemljak inside the 3-meter line.
"All of the passers made my job easier," Zemljak said. "I didn’t have to do anything."
Walker said Zemljak is skilled in reading the block. Walker, on sets to the front left or quick pipe sets to the back row, tried to zip angle shots.
"I was watching where the hands were, and attacking the seams," Walker said.
Umlauft went with line shots early, forcing the Matadors to align libero Kaleo Baxter in the corner. When the Matadors tried to sneak a second blocker to the pins, Umlauft made them live up to their nickname, hitting swooshing crossing shots past the block.
"Nejc did a good job," Umlauft said. "He made it hard for (the Matadors’) block."
In the third set, Umlauft and Walker combined for 12 kills without an error in 17 swings.
"It was a nice performance," Wade said. "It was nice to see a lot of the stuff we’ve been working on throughout the year start to materialize."
Indeed, it was even a learning experience through the two-match series. The Matadors’ middles gave the Warriors fits early in Friday’s match. Last night, the Warriors disrupted the Matadors’ quick attack with sharp serves. To avoid the Warriors’ aggressive block, the Matadors widened their offense in the third set, often attacking out of the back row. But the Warriors absorbed the Matadors’ best shots.
"All we had to do was trust our defense," Walker said.
NO. 9 HAWAII DEF. CS NORTHRIDGE 25-19, 25-23, 25-19
|Matadors (6-20, 4-15)|
|Warriors (14-11, 12-8)|
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 (Rodrick 2, Nua, Stork). Hawaii 3 (Hunt, Zemljak, Biscaro). Service errors — CSUN 3 (Lebrock, Staker, Faulkner). Hawaii 11 (Zemljak 3, Welch 2, Hunt 2, Walker 2, Umlauft, Lofy). Assists — CSUN 36 (Rodrick 28, Baxter 3, Nua 2, Stork 2, Lebrock). Hawaii 55 (Zemljak 50, Castello 3, Hunt, Walker). T — 1:33. Officials — Ernie Ho, Dickson Chun. A — 2,178.
|xy-USC||17||1||.944 — 18-1|
|x-UC Santa Barbara||10||8||.556||61/2||13-11|
|x-Long Beach State||10||9||.526||81/2||12-12|
|UC San Diego||5||14||.263||12||9-17|
y-clinched MPSF quarterfinal home court
x-clinched MPSF quarterfinal berth
z-ineligible for postseason
Hawaii def. CSU Northridge, 25-19, 25-23, 25-19
USC def. Pacific, 25-18, 25-15, 25-17
Stanford def. Pepperdine, 25-15, 26-28, 25-23, 25-20