The Mountain Pacific Sports Federation announced its all-stars yesterday, with Hawaii opposite attacker Jonas Umlauft named to the first team, and left-side hitter Joshua Walker and setter Nejc Zemljak selected to the second team.
In all, four players with Hawaii ties were named to the first team and five are on the second team. Joining Umlauft on the first team are Brad Lawson of Stanford (‘Iolani), Futi Tavana of BYU (Kauai High), and Riley McKibbin of USC (Punahou).
Umlauft leads the nation in kills with 5.55 per set (1.00 more than MPSF runner-up Carson Clark’s average). Umlauft’s production increased from a year ago, when he averaged 5.29, despite the winning score of each of the first four sets being reduced to 25 points this season.
But Umlauft’s eyes are on a different prize.
“I’m looking forward to (tomorrow’s) match,” he said of the MPSF playoff opener against host UC Irvine. “That means a lot.”
The Warriors were scheduled to arrive in Orange County last night. They will practice at Crawford Court today in preparation for tomorrow’s match.
ALL-MPSF FIRST TEAM
Players with Hawaii ties on the second team are:
Players with Hawaii ties who received honorable mention are:
The Anteaters played all but one of their home matches this season in the Bren Center. But that facility is booked this weekend, forcing the quarterfinal match to be played in 800-seat Crawford. “We’re getting there early to get used to it,” UH associate head coach Dan Fisher said, noting that one end of the gym has a stage.
A capacity turnout, including numerous UH fans, is expected.
“It’ll be packed,” Fisher predicted. “It’ll be a nice, fun college environment. I think that energy is only going to help.”
Despite losing both regular-season matches between the teams in Irvine in February, the Warriors are pleased with the matchup. In the Feb. 22 match, the Warriors unsuccessfully served for set point in the first and fourth sets, and blew a 22-15 lead in the third en route to a four-set loss. The Warriors’ three pin hitters — Umlauft, Walker and Steven Hunt — combined to hit .511. But the Warriors were aced 13 times, and had a difficult time passing at the end of each set.
“I think we left there as disappointed with any loss that we’ve had the last two years,” UH head coach Charlie Wade said. “We really felt that in that one, we played good enough to win, and we didn’t.”
The message was clear. “You’ve got to make plays down the stretch,” Wade said. “You have to perform when it counts. You have to make plays. They did, and we didn’t. I think we’ve been a lot better at the end since then. I know Josh Walker took it pretty personal, and has worked really hard. We noticed he’s been really good late in sets.”
Since that match, the Warriors have won nine of 12. If that Irvine outcome had been reversed, the two teams would be playing at the Stan Sheriff Center. “The Irvine matches definitely got away from us,” Walker said. “We were up in all of the sets. We even beat them pretty bad in one of the sets. I felt if I passed a little better, if I eliminated some of those passing errors, it would be two wins instead of two losses. Ever since then, I’ve been working to make sure that never happens again.”
If the Warriors win tomorrow, they’ll stay on the mainland. The highest remaining seed will host the semifinals Thursday and championship match next Saturday. The MPSF tournament winner earns an automatic berth in the NCAA final four at University Park, Pa. The at-large berth also will likely go to an MPSF team. The Warriors hope that this trip will be more than a weekend getaway.
“We’re all planning on 17 (days),” Zemljak said. “That’s what we’re going for.”