Sports Outrigger Invitational often has final four atmosphere By Cindy Luis Jan. 8, 2015 Mahalo for supporting Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Enjoy this free story! Read more Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser! You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription. Subscribe Now Read this story for free: Watch an ad or complete a survey Log In Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story. Activate Digital Account Print subscriber but without online access? Activate your Digital Account now. It was born of a desire to create a final-four atmosphere, something that Hawaii anticipated could happen for the first time for the Rainbow Warriors four months later. Three of the teams in the inaugural Outrigger Invitational did advance to the national tournament in Springfield, Mass., with UCLA bookending its season with championships in the both the Outrigger and the NCAA tournaments. 21ST OUTRIGGER RESORTS INVITATIONAL At Stan Sheriff Center Thursday » No. 3 Penn State (0-0) vs. No. 8 UC Irvine (0-1), 4 p.m. » No. 14 Ohio State (3-0) vs. No. 10 Hawaii (1-0), 7 p.m. Friday » Ohio State vs. UC Irvine, 4 p.m. » Penn State vs. Hawaii, 7 p.m. Sunday » UC Irvine vs. Hawaii, 5 p.m. TV: Hawaii matches, OC Sports Radio: Hawaii matches, KKEA The bar was set high then and it has never been lowered with the Stan Sheriff Center continuing to host one of the premier preseason men’s volleyball tournament in the country. While a number of the current Rainbow Warriors were not yet born when the event began in 1995 — the first season for men’s volleyball in the Sheriff Center — the history is not lost on them. "No, I’m not as old as the tournament," UH junior libero Kolby Kanetake, 20, said. "But I grew up watching it, seeing how awesome it was and now I have the experience of playing for UH in it. "We had season tickets since I was like 6 and I remember watching all the great teams and the great players. That’s what we’ll have this week, playing against great teams that are going to challenge us and makes us a better team." The Rainbow Warriors have played better hosts than they would have liked, winning just six of the 20 titles, the last coming in 2010. There won’t be a true champion this week as the format is not a true round-robin; Penn State and Ohio State couldn’t stay to play on Sunday — UH has a men’s basketball game Saturday — so the Nittany Lions and Buckeyes are here for just two matches. Mountain Pacific Sports Federation rivals Hawaii and UC Irvine will get in three contests, with the Warriors and Anteaters playing in Sunday’s 5 p.m. match. It will be the last time the tournament is scheduled to have two MPSF teams for the foreseeable future. "With the emphasis on the RPI and importance of the nonconference schedule (for postseason at-large consideration), the idea will be to bring someone out from the Carolina league," Rainbow Warriors coach Charlie Wade said. "It’s going to be looking a little different after this year. Pav (Penn State coach Mark Pavlik) and Pete (Ohio State Hanson) have standing invitations but they are not as interested in coming out if they don’t get to play two MPSF teams. "And UCI has been wanting to come out for a while. We decided to give them a shot before we make the changes." The tournament has long been an early gauge for coaches. It is no different for Wade, whose team opened Saturday with a solid sweep of Division III Stevens. "It’s still more about us right now," Wade said. "We want to pass well and be efficient." The Warirors’ efficiency will be in the hands sophomore setter Jennings Franciskovic. "It’s going to be a lot of fun, good competition," Franciskovic said. "It’s a great way to start the year. These are teams we could see in the final four." A look at the teams: No. 3 Penn State (0-0) The perennial powerhouse out of the Eastern Incollegiate Volleyball Association returns for its 20th appearance (21-34), having missed the event only in 2012. The Nittany Lions have won it all twice, going back-to-back in 2008 and ’09, with a third-place finish last January. Penn State returns all but one starter from its 26-time defending EIVA championship team, including All-American senior hitter Aaron Russell, the two-time Uvaldo Acosta Memorial EIVA Player of the Year who led the country in ace average (0.65) with 40 total. The Nittany Lions are the only EIVA team in the AVCA Preseason Top 15 poll and are the preseason pick to again win the conference. Also back is All-Amercan senior opposite Nick Goodell, the EIVA tournament’s Most Oustanding Player, who averaged 3.79 kills per set with 35 aces. Mark Pavlik, a former PSU setter, is in his 21st year (482-142), winning the NCAA title in 2008. No. 8 UC Irvine (0-1) The Anteaters, making their Outrigger debut, come in after being swept by No. 9 Lewis on Monday. UCI returns All-American libero Michael Brinkley as well as hitters Zack La Cavera, a senior, junior Kyle Russell and sophomore Tamir Hershko. The Anteaters also picked up junior middle Marty Ross and sophomore hitter Thomas Hodges from Pacific, which dropped its program after last season. Sophomore Michael Saeta, a converted opposite, is the setter UCI. His father, David, was a setter for Stanford. Coach David Kniffn, a former UCI setter, is in his third season (43-18) and won the 2013 NCAA in his first year. The Anteaters were picked to finish fifth in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation. No. 10 Hawaii (1-0) The Rainbow Warriors are 32-26 in this event with six titles, the last coming in 2010. UH finished second to UCLA last January, a victory that gave the Bruins their ninth championship in 14 appearances. Hawaii is led by All-American senior middle Taylor Averill, the reigning MPSF Player of the Week. Averill, the only middle selected to the All-American first team, had 13 kills with no errors and added five blocks and three aces in last Saturday’s sweep of Division III Stevens. Other starters returning for the Warriors are senior opposite Brook Sedore, junior hitter Siki Zarkovic and junior libero Kolby Kanetake. Sophomore Jennings Franciskovic replaces the graduated Joby Ramos at setter and had UH hitting .407 Saturday against the Ducks. Charlie Wade is in his sixth season (68-72). No. 15 Ohio State (3-0) The Buckeyes are making their sixth appearance in the tournament (3-12) and third consecutive. OSU’s best finish came in 2008 where the Buckeyes, Warirors and Bruins all finished at 2-1; the title when to Hawaii on the tiebreaker with OSU second and UCLA third. The Buckeyes opened Midwest Intercollegiate Volleyball Association play last week with two 3-1 wins over McKendree, the newest MIVA member. It gave OSU the program’s 399th and 400th conference victories and led to sophomore setter Christy Blough and senior hitter Michael Henchy sweeping the MIVA weekly honors. Blough earned defensive accolades when averaging 1.29 digs and .86 blocks were set. Henchy was the top offensive player with 3.0 kills per set and hitting .594. Ohio State defeated DII PacWest member Cal Baptist Monday in four with Henchy putting down 21 kills and freshman opposite Nicolas Szerszen, a French national, adding 15 kills and five blocks. The Buckeyes were picked to finish fourth in the MIVA. Pete Hanson is in his 31st season (594-321), winning the NCAA title in 2011. 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