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UH’s McKellar deals with growing pains

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  • JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARADVERTISER.COMIain McKellar placed a kill past Team SportConX’s Maulia Labarre during Monday’s exhibition match.

University of Hawaii volleyball player Iain McKellar was relieved to learn the inflammation in his surgically repaired left knee was from “growing pains.”

“My knee’s great,” said McKellar, a 6-foot-8 middle blocker who missed most of the 2015 season with a torn meniscus. “But it looks like I might be getting taller.”

McKellar also is dealing with the figurative growing pains from his conversion from opposite attacker. McKellar and Hendrik Mol, also a converted opposite, are playing middle for the first time in their UH careers.

“The big question was with the blocking, but I think they’ve both been doing really well,” setter Jennings Franciskovic said. “They’re getting blocks and touching balls. I’m proud of the way they’re playing.”

UH coach Charlie Wade said the wish is for McKellar and Mol to be more involved in the offense early in today’s match against Lewis. The seventh-ranked Rainbow Warriors and No. 8 Flyers are both 2-0 entering the 5 p.m. finale of the Outrigger Resorts Invitational in the Stan Sheriff Center. Harvard (0-2) and King (0-2) meet at 2 p.m.

In most rotations, the strongest swings belong to the opposite and two outside hitters. McKellar and Mol are middles who hit and serve with the power of pin attackers.

“We’re playing with two outsides and three opposites,” Wade said. “When they get rolling, they should put some pressure on teams.”

Wade noted the improved connection between Franciskovic and McKellar, who is a rare left-handed middle.

“Iain is always going to have an advantage in matchup because nobody practices against a lefty middle,” Wade said. “It’s more of a challenge for the setter to isolate him. But that should work out. It should be to our advantage.”

McKellar not only has a natural cut shot, like a baseball pitcher’s slider, but he makes contact with a quick, full-body motion.

“It’s shoulder-rotation speed,” said McKellar, who describes the impact as “whip-fist.” His serves have been clocked at up to 60 mph.

Mol has honed his so-called “explosive moves” — quick jumps — from years competing in sand volleyball.

“Hendrik is just a good volleyball player,” Wade said. “He’s just a big, strong kid.”

The Warriors are seeking their first Outrigger title since 2010.

“It has a final-four aspect to it,” libero Kolby Kanetake said of the tournament. “This match is very important. It has postseason implications. If we win, it’ll boost our RPI in the (NCAA tournament) committee’s eyes at the end of the year. It’s important for us to come out and play well.”

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