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Coach Charlie Wade and Warriors have 5 weeks to figure it out

Mar. 14—One jump, one bad landing, and one agonizingly long minute, which felt like an hour, changed the rest of the season for the No. 1 Hawaii men's volleyball team.

One jump, one bad landing, and one agonizingly long minute, which felt like an hour, changed the rest of the season for the No. 1 Hawaii men's volleyball team.

The Rainbow Warriors woke up today in Long Beach, Calif., where a rivalry will be renewed between Hawaii and No. 2 Long Beach State at Walter Pyramid on Friday and Saturday.

Today will be the second practice for UH since losing senior national player of the year contender Spyros Chakas. His injury Sunday in the finale of the Outrigger Invitational sucked the life out of everybody inside of SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center.

The team has had 72 hours to grasp the reality of finishing the season without their floor captain. Head coach Charlie Wade has already begun to put together the game plan for success over the next five weeks, culminating in the Big West Tournament here April 18-20.

Hawaii must first overcome the mental side of seeing its star player go down in such a horrific fashion. It's not something that happens overnight.

"That's a big challenge, " Wade said Tuesday. "Everybody is hurt and saddened and concerned and it will be a challenge for sure. It's not an ideal situation for us, but we've got to pick up the pieces and move on."

There will be sleepless nights along the way for Wade, who has won at least a share of the Big West Coach of the Year award each of the last two years and was the AVCA National Coach of the Year in 2019.

This will be one of the biggest challenges in his 15 seasons as the Hawaii coach, but he did offer a hint at how he will approach the next five weeks.

As Wade tweaks and plays with different lineup possibilities and offensive gameplans, each individual match might not have the same importance in the win-loss column it had a week ago.

The end game is all about what happens in late April.

"We've got five weeks to figure out what we've got to do to come back here to play in the Big West Tournament, " Wade said. "Right now, the next 10 matches are for seeding and is there any real difference if you're playing in the (No. 3 vs. No. 6 matchup ) or what spot you're in ?

"For us, there will be a match to qualify for the NCAA Tournament in the Stan Sheriff Center in late April. We need to be in that match and we need to win it."

Hawaii, which owns the longest active winning streak in the nation at 16 matches, has been 17-1 or better four times in the last six seasons.

Its conference opener couldn't be any tougher as it comes against the Beach, who have won the last nine meetings at the Pyramid.

Hawaii leads the nation in hitting percentage (.397 ) and aces per set (2.59 ), while Long Beach State is tops in the country in blocks per set (3.29 ) and opposing hitting percentage (.159 ).

"It's going to be tough because not only are you now worried about who is going to carry five points a set, you're also going to be worried about it being a totally different dynamic out there, " sophomore middle Kurt Nusterer said. "We've seen before how all of us have our own individual characteristics and we all play with different playing styles, and I really think Spyros was the glue that tied us all together. Obviously I am concerned about who is going to take over the statistical load that has been left, but I'm also really concerned about who is going to take over that non-statistical role that he had."

Hawaii and Long Beach State have combined to win four of the last five national championships.

Senior Keoni Thiim and freshman Louis Sakanoko are the two players off the bench who have played the most and are able to step in Chakas' place.

Senior outside hitter Chaz Galloway has started 13 of the 14 matches he has played in this season, but his 2.07 kills per set average is a career low.

Hawaii has also made it a point in recent weeks to get the middles more involved. That will be the case even more so now.

It remains to be seen how exactly UH will go about trying to replace Chakas, whose last piece of advice to the team was to never be satisfied with the result.

"Even if it's a win, there is something you can take from that win you can do better, " Nusterer said. "He reached out to us and he said, 'hey guys, I love you all and keep fighting.' We're going to try to direct our energy to figuring out how we can fill that gap that was left by Spyros, and I think that's just as much, if not more, of a priority than anything ball related going into Friday's game."

Rainbow Warrior Volleyball At Walter Pyramid, Long Beach, Calif.

No. 1 Hawaii (17-1 ) vs. No. 2 Long Beach State (16-1 )—When : Friday and Saturday, 4 p.m.—Live stream : ESPN +—Radio : KKEA 1420-AM / 97.5-FM