For the first time in five years, the Stan Sheriff Center will be the site for an MPSF volleyball playoff match when Long Beach State and Hawaii meet in the quarterfinals tonight. Here are things to know:
> Middle: LBSU’s Taylor Gregory is one of the nation’s best middles, averaging 1.58 blocks per set. He’s smart, active and models his game after former LBSU All-American David Lee’s. UH’s Taylor Averill is the best attacking middle since Pepperdine’s Brad Keenan a decade ago. Keenan specialized in the step-out move; Averill creates space with his foot speed and mis-direction hits, particularly his cut-back swing.
> Serving: It figures that each team’s hardest hitters — LBSU outside hitter Cody Martin and UH opposite Brook Sedore — are the most disruptive servers. In the past four matches, the 49ers scored natural points on 43.8 percent of Martin’s serves. As part of Canadian teams’ warmups, players hit straight-down spikes. That power drill is ingrained in Sedore’s mind set. “I like to hit as hard as I can,” said Sedore, who disdains roll shots from the pins and floaters from behind the service line. Sedore is third on the UH career list in aces with 117, four behind co-leaders Costas Theocharidis and Pedro Azenha.
> Passing: LBSU’s Ryan Windisch was having a breakout season before suffering an injury. Bjarne Huus moved from outside hitter, and started 10 of the past 11 matches at libero. Both are healthy, and with volleyball’s two-libero rule, both are expected to play tonight. Kolby Kanetake has morning-afters made for Alleve. The body aches and court burns are results of diving digs. He also has improved his hand-passing, and now is skilled against float serves.
> Coaching: LBSU’s Alan Knipe knows how to win, how to win in front of large crowds (he coached the U.S. national team in the 2012 Olympics), and how to win in the SSC. Assistant coach Tyler Hildebrand, a former 49er setter, is a rising star in the coaching ranks. Charlie Wade has done a good job amassing arms in a sport limited to the financial equivalent of 4.5 scholarships. In the MPSF, depth is key. Wade was able to resurrect outside hitter Scott Hartley’s career, develop Averill and Davis Holt into attacking middles, and make use of the waiver wire. Wade convinced backup setter Alex Jones to join. Jones, who helped UH beat LBSU on the road in February, is error-free on 55 serves.