UH takes down UC Irvine in five
• Photo gallery: Hawaii vs. UC Irvine volleyball
BY Stephen Tsai
In a volleyball match sponsored by a gasoline company, power-hitter freshman Jonas Umlauft fueled Hawai'i's five-set victory over defending national champion UC Irvine last night.
The scores were 30-28, 30-20, 27-30, 26-30 and 20-18 at the Stan Sheriff Center.
The Germany-raised Umlauft slammed 37 kills, including eight in the fifth set, to set a team record since the implementation of rally scoring in 2001.
It also was the most kills for a Warrior since Torry Tukuafu's 39 in 2000.
"He was great," UH left-side hitter Joshua Walker said, comparing Umlauft to Kobe Bryant. "When he's that hot, we have to feed him the ball. We wanted to get him the ball, and let him swing away."
Setter Nejc Zemljak said: "If he's putting the ball away, why not set him?"
After the match, Umlauft was on the court, calmly stretching.
"It will come later in the evening," he said. "At the moment, I'm still on fire. I don't feel tired."
Umlauft, who is 6 feet 9, is the Warriors' first natural opposite attacker since Pedro Azenha five years ago. Umlauft is capable of blasting away from every rotation turn — the front left, the front right and the back right. Last night, he even scored on a set to the back left.
Umlauft can use his high jump (he can touch 11 feet 7) to hit over blocks. He also feasts on line shots with a spike that is considered a "heavy ball" or, in volleyball vernacular, a hit that is difficult to dig.
"I think Nejc was the reason I was successful," Umlauft said. "Every set was perfect."
Walker, who was targeted 35 times by servers, said the goal was to just pass the ball, giving Zemljak enough time to set Umlauft. Umlauft said he prefers quick sets, although if the pass is off the mark, he wants a high set in order to have enough time to read the block.
"Jonas was great all night," UH coach Charlie Wade said. "He was good early and often."
Umlauft also was good late. In the fifth set, the Anteaters served aloha ball at 16-15, 17-16 and 18-17.
Each ensuing time, Umlauft responded with a loud kill.
At 18-all, UH outside hitter Steven Hunt went behind the service line. Hunt had committed seven errors in his first 16 serves.
"I just wanted to put the ball in, and let the team have a chance to get a point," Hunt said. "It worked."
On Irvine outside hitter Jordan DuFault's dig, the ball popped up near the net. Umlauft scored on a stuff.
On the final play of the match, the Anteaters fed opposite attacker Carson Clark on the right side.
Clark, who had 29 kills in a scoring duel with Umlauft, soared for the spike.
But Walker and middle blocker Matt "Dragon" Rawson read Clark's body language and constructed a block against the crossing shot.
"We knew exactly where it was going," Walker said. "His whole body was going in that direction. We knew if it went high, got our hands over (the net), we'd get the block. We were focused on that play."
Walker and Rawson did indeed block Clark, setting off a wild celebration.
Walker contributed 22 kills and Zemljak made three key blocks in the fifth set. There had been concerns about Zemljak's blocking earlier in the season. But Hawai'i has tried different schemes, sometimes switching Zemljak to the middle on tandem blocks.
"He made some plays when it counted," Wade said.