Hawaii Pacific eyes first national title
Sea Warriors have not competed in a match since April 8
It’s no wonder No. 6 Hawaii Pacific has had such a successful season.
The Sea Warriors (14-4), who will take on Shaw (27-2) at 2 p.m. ET in Wednesday’s first round, are a close-knit group. Players often joke with each other and have a laid-back attitude that helps relieve the stresses of a competitive schedule. On the court, they’re supportive and focused.
“We have a really close team and they’re really good friends, so there’s not much drama going on,” said first-year head coach Hendrik Bode. “That makes it very easy for the coaches and the players themselves.”
One advantage for the team is being accustomed to long trips. Since it’s difficult for squads to travel to Hawaii, the Sea Warriors often venture cross-country. This year, they played in Las Vegas and also Florida, where they notched a 5-4 win against then-No. 3 Barry in April.
Hawaii Pacific arrived on Sunday after ample time to prepare for the tournament -- more than most of their foes. As an independent, the Sea Warriors didn’t compete in a conference tournament. Their last competitive match was April 8.
“It’s been helpful, but on the other side, we do have a break when other teams have their conference tournament,” Bode said. “We just practice. There’s not much competition in April, but they’ll be coming in fresh.”
Bode, a Hawaii Pacific alumnus who served as a graduate assistant and assistant prior to taking the helm in July, said he was most concerned about having a good season in his rookie year.
“(I was worried about) not doing well,” he said. “I want them to do well. Sometimes, no matter how hard you work, it just doesn’t go your way. For the most part, as far as the outcome of this season has turned out, I’m fairly relieved, I have to say.”
Bode and the team spent some time relaxing in Louisville, the host city. The team took a drive through some of the scenic neighborhoods, including an area called Seneca Park that features a wide-open landscape and distinguished architecture.
“I’m from Germany, and it reminded me of home a little bit,” he said. “There were a lot of older buildings and a lot of forest. It seemed very mellow.”
Sophomore Petr Michnev, originally from Ostrava, Czech Republic, is the team’s captain and is ranked No. 8 in singles and No. 4 in doubles. In March of his freshman season, Michnev toppled then-No. 1 ranked Emanuel Fraitzl in one of the highlights of his young career.
“He’s all you can ask for as a coach,” Bode said. “He always gives 100 percent in practices and matches. I don’t think I’ve ever seen or heard him say a word while playing a match. He’s very fair. He sets the standards for everyone else.”
Michnev said there were particular areas of focus during the time off.
“We’ve been practicing doubles, because I think we did pretty good in doubles, but still we had some stuff to improve,” he said. “We practiced as we did all season so I think we are ready for this match.
“The season was great. Obviously, there were some losses that were very hard - for example, the ones against Armstrong (1-8, March 12) and West Florida (1-8, April 8).”
Michnev is studying finance and his future goals are set.
“My dream is to become the head of financial department in some big company,” he said.
Also expected to provide some power for the Sea Warriors are freshman Georgi Yordanov, ranked No. 37 in singles, and junior Patric Guenther, who along with Michnev is ranked No. 4 in doubles.
Two Belgian players -- senior Stephan Weling and freshman Gerald Moretti -- are nicknamed “The Belgian Waffles” by their teammates.
Bode said, as with his team’s personality, it’s all in good fun.
“We have unique characters on the team,” he said. “They’re all quiet, humble guys. We joke a lot and we make a lot of fun of each other. No one has problems with it.”