The bye week may have come at the perfect time for the fourth-ranked University of Hawaii men's volleyball team as they rested up for what is essentially the beginning of the postseason this week at UCLA.
"When you play at UCLA for the last two matches and there's really something on the line," sophomore opposite Stijn van Tilburg said, "there's a little extra added to it."
What the Rainbow Warriors are playing for in the final weekend of the regular season is home court advantage in the opening round of the MPSF Tournament. One win against the sixth-ranked Bruins and UH secures a home match the following weekend. Two losses and the 'Bows will need UC Irvine to lose, otherwise they drop to the fifth seed and will play on the road, likely at UCLA again.
"Having the home court advantage is such a big deal, especially for the first round," said sophomore libero Tui Tuileta. "We're approaching it like any other game, just one day at a time."
The Stan Sheriff Center has been good to the 'Bows this season. They're 17-0 and riding a program record 21-match win streak dating back to last year.
"Our main goal at the beginning of the season was to finish in the top four," said van Tilburg. "We really want to accomplish that goal."
Hawaii had to travel to Westwood for the first round of the MPSF Tournament last year where they were eliminated by the Bruins in four sets.
"You play the game to play against the best, and UCLA is one of the best programs out there," said Tuileta. "They have a lot of good athletes, a great team, and a really good coach, so it will be good to see how we end up."
Senior setter Jennings Franciskovic acknowledged that there are no secrets between the two teams after years of playing against each other. The fact that Hawaii's playoff hosting hopes hinge on this series only adds to the motivation.
"We have to come out, the first night especially, and show them who we are as a team," said Franciskovic. "Hopefully we get the results we want so we can come back here and host that first round of the playoffs."
"If we play our game and if we play our best on the road, we're pretty confident what the result will be," said van Tilburg.
The first match is Friday at 3pm HST on the Pac-12 Network. Saturday's match is at 4pm PST.
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