By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
Elroy Osorio estimates he’s spent nearly two decades trying to get the University of Hawaii at Hilo to develop a men’s volleyball program — a fruitless pursuit that had no good news in sight, until recently.
“I’ve been at it so long, 15 to 20 years, working with different UH-Hilo athletic directors and got nowhere,” he said.
It’s a long shot but at least there’s light at the end of a very long tunnel. There’s a resolution in the state House and Senate, being pushed by Rep. Clift Tsuji, Sen. Gilbert Kahele and former Rep. Jerry Chang.
Osorio is still waiting on its status, and hopes the UH Warrior men’s volleyball scrimmage on Saturday helps build momentum.
“It will be good for the community,” said Osorio, a chairman on a committee to add UH-Hilo men’s volleyball. “Every kid looking forward to college volleyball can see how good they (the Warriors) are and what to expect. It can’t help but be a beginning of our effort.
“It’ll help UH-Hilo by and large. There are few local volleyball players who make it to Manoa. Those kids could go to UH-Hilo and increase enrollment. It’ll be a win-win situation.”
Osorio’s son, Ecko, and UH coach Charlie Wade are friends, and they ironed out all the details to bring the intrasquad scrimmage to the Waiakea High Gym.
“There’s great volleyball support here for UH men’s volleyball or any type of volleyball,” Ecko Osorio said. “It’s high-level of volleyball. It’s not too often you see Division I volleyball here. The fans will be appreciative of that.”
Wade would appreciate the benefits of a UH-Hilo men’s volleyball team.
“For one thing, it’ll level the playing field a little,” he said. “When we go to the mainland, we play four matches in five days. No one else (from the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation conference) has to experience that.
“When teams come here, it would be similar. They would have to play the both of us. Other teams would have to extend their travel and it would be helpful to us.”
On a wider scale, the growth on any men’s volleyball program would be good for the sport. That’s because there are only three main conferences, and the NCAA national tournament is only a four-team field.
“The more teams you add the closer you get to making the NCAA expand its postseason tournament for volleyball,” Wade said. “The (MPSF) league is so competitive the top seven or eight teams on any given year have a national title chance, but only two get that chance. We only get one automatic berth for the national championship.”
To form a conference, at least six teams are required. There are possibilities of a new conference if UH-Hilo adds a team.
The MPSF has 12 members. Grand Canyon, a Pacific West Conference member in other sports, has men’s volleyball and plays in the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association, comprised of teams a long time zone away.
“Anything you can do to get the NCAA to grow the field the more teams have a shot to win a national championship,” Wade said. “That would be good for the sport.”