Picture a map. Hawaii’s "you are here" marker appears to be located not too far from its 2012 volleyball goals.
"Overall, I think the program is moving forward in a lot of ways that maybe aren’t measurable or, certainly, not obvious," UH head coach Charlie Wade said.
The Warriors’ 2011 season ended with a three-set loss to UC Irvine in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation quarterfinals last Saturday. The outcome signified the end of collegiate playing careers for three starters — outside hitter Joshua Walker, the Warriors’ second-most prolific attacker in the rally-scoring era; fifth-year setter Nejc Zemljak, and middle blocker Brennon Dyer.
But Wade, who completed his second season as UH head coach, said a "culture" has been established.
"We’re getting guys to buy into doing the best they can academically, being really committed to getting themselves faster and stronger, and being a good teammate," Wade said. "For that part, we’re making progress."
The Warriors’ on-court goals could be seen across the net Saturday evening.
"We need to increase our depth," Wade said, reciting the first item on his wish list. "Playing a team like Irvine, it’s really obvious. It’s probably the deepest program in the league in terms of talent and number of bodies it has."
The Anteaters have four active middle blockers, three liberos who started this year, outside hitters who are accurate passers, and jump servers at five rotation turns.
Wade’s vision is a roster of athletic players with good footwork.
"Everything starts with the feet," Wade said. "If you go to any sport, if you talk to coaches about what they spend a lot of time on year-round, it’s feet. You have to have good footwork to have good range, to know what your platform" — extended forearms for passing — "is doing. How many times have you seen in volleyball, where the reaction to make a play is to fall to the ground? In most sports, when you go to the ground, the play is over, especially for you. We want more emphasis on being athletic, having more range, so you can shrink the court down and have more rallies."
UH’s attack next season will begin with opposite Jonas Umlauft, who led the nation in kills this season.
There are about five outside hitters who will be added to a position that loses only Walker. Brook Sedore, of Alberta, Canada, will be one of the newcomers. A 6-foot-5 outside hitter from Germany is expected to send his letter of intent this week. Two players from MPSF teams have indicated they will transfer. The NCAA allows a volleyball player a one-time transfer without a waiting period of sitting out a season.
Steven Hunt, who will be a senior in 2012, is expected to receive more sets. He has emerged as a skilled hitter, blocker, defender and passer.
"If there was any kind of highlight from Saturday night, it was watching Steve Hunt be under control and play really good," Wade said. "We’ve seen him play really good and play under control. You didn’t see the two together very often."
During his freshman year, Shane Welch became an efficient blocker. Jarrod Lofy, who will be a senior, and Davis Holt, a 6-9 freshman who redshirted this year, will compete at middle blocker. J.J. Mosolf, who signed in the fall, is a 6-foot-6 opposite who also can play in the middle. He can touch 11-feet, 8 inches off a standing jump. UH is expected to receive a commitment from a player versatile enough to play setter and middle blocker.
Sam Biscaro gets first shot at succeeding Zemljak, a clever setter and productive server. Biscaro, at 6-4, offers a bigger block. UH is bringing in at least two more setters.
"I don’t want to take anything for granted," Biscaro said. "I want to make sure I get into the gym this summer, and work hard to get an opportunity to get that spot."
In men’s volleyball, each team must divide the monetary equivalent of 4.5 scholarships. The only assured newcomers are the ones who sign letters of intent.
"You do the best you can with what you have available," Wade said.