The University of Hawaii men’s volleyball team will look to soar high and pound its frustrations out following a 7-20 record last season in an intrasquad scrimmage for a hometown good cause.
There will be no admission charge for the scrimmage at 7 p.m. Saturday at Waiakea High Gym, but donations can be made to the American Heart Association on behalf of former swimmer and Waiakea graduate Peter Chi, who died last month of apparent cardiac arrest.
Chi was 19. He was a 2010 Waiakea graduate and UH walk-on who earned a scholarship and a Conference USA team championship.
UH players and coaches will also be available for autographs following the match. The Warriors open their season Jan. 4, hosting BYU in a pair of matches.
Daniel Aina, a 2012 Kamehameha graduate, was in the mix for the libero starting job but will be a manager and take a two-year Mormon mission next semester, said UH coach Charlie Wade, who enters his fourth season.
Last season, the Warriors stubbed their toe early, stumbling to a 1-15 start, including a victory-searching mission that lasted until the ninth match.
UH lost its biggest weapon in outside hitter Steven Hunt, who pounded 419 kills or 4.15 per set in his senior year. Stepping in the first-rotation outside hitting spot is sophomore JP Marks, who finished second with 216 kills or 2.30 per set.
Marks, a German junior national team member, is one of four foreign players on the roster, standing 6 feet 4 or taller. The 6-6 Marks had just a .173 hitting percentage last season.
Still, Wade is holding a tall glass of optimism filled to the brim, knowing the shifting history of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation conference, the toughest in the land of men’s volleyball. MPSF bullies have won seven of the last nine NCAA national championships.
On the flip side of the coin, there’s been a different MPSF champion the last nine seasons. Also, Stanford was in the conference cellar in 2009. The following season, the Cardinal won the national title.
That 2010 Stanford team was powered by Brad Lawson and brothers Kawika and Erik Shoji, all local products. Lawson and Kawika Shoji, both out of Iolani, were Co-Most Outstanding Players at the NCAA Tournament. Erik Shoji, out of Punahou, also made the All-Tournament team.
Getting blue-chip local kids, like Rainbow Wahine coach Dave Shoji’s two sons, to stay home remains a top priority for Wade, an assistant under Shoji for 11 years.
“We have to get out in the community and get to know those guys more,” Wade said. “We’re going to keep recruiting locally first and keep banging that drum to get more guys to stay home.”