HONOLULU — Three setters. Three liberos. A three-set victory.
There was little drop-off when No. 3 Hawaii used three different lineups on Thursday night. The Rainbow Warriors were able to use all 17 eligible players during an 81-minute 25-11, 25-11, 25-18 sweep of Lees-McRae at the Stan Sheriff Center.
The match against the Conference Carolinas Bobcats (1-7) is the only one that officially counts for Hawaii (8-1) in this week’s Waikiki Beachcomber Classic volleyball tournament. But all three matches — the exhibitions Friday night against pro team Academy United and Saturday against Canada West team Thompson Rivers — will be treated the same way — seriously.
“Being able to use 17 guys means we have a really deep team,” said Hawaii sophomore hitter Brandon Rattray, who put down eight kills, with half of the team’s eight service aces. “We compete in the practice gym, work really hard every day for chances like this.
“It’s awesome to be able to get out and compete in front of our fans. The deeper the team is, the better.”
The Warriors hope to be able to showcase that again at 7 p.m. Friday against Academy United. The National Volleyball Association member dispatched Thompson Rivers 25-19, 25-21, 25-16 in 66 minutes in Thursday’s first match.
Sophomore hitter Austin Matautia finished with 10 kills with just one error in 16 swings in two sets to lead Hawaii. Sophomore opposite Wes Rogman and freshman hitter Robert Bowling had five kills each for the Bobcats, who have no seniors and just one junior on the roster.
“Overall there were a lot of positives tonight, a lot to be happy about,” Warriors coach Charlie Wade said. “It was good to give a lot of guys who don’t normally play some meaningful minutes.
“It won’t count (record-wise or statistically) against United, but it’s a great opportunity to play against some really talented players. They’re older guys who won’t be super-hyped, will have a level of patience, will be pretty efficient. It will be a good test for us.”
Lees-McRae rarely tested Hawaii on Thursday night. The Bobcats also used their third-string setter but it was out of necessity when coach Henry Chaung benched both freshmen Joseph Valadez and Zack Boyda for unspecified reasons.
Instead sophomore hitter Chris Woolslayer made his first career start at setter, finishing with 13 assists for the night. It matched the assist total of Hawaii’s freshman setter Jackson Van Eekeren who played only in Set 3.
“It was a lot of fun tonight,” said Van Eekeren, his 8-0 serving run helping the Warriors pull away at 17-10 in the final set. “It’s always fun to get a bunch of guys in, we love it, the fans love it.
“Tomorrow I think will be a little tougher match. But we treat every game as if it counts, treat every opponent with respect and always want to play to the best of our ability.”