Wright on: Vulcans’ playoff run needs to start now

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Random notes and observations about the UH-Hilo athletic department as we escape 2016 alive and look at the new year.

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Random notes and observations about the UH-Hilo athletic department as we escape 2016 alive and look at the new year.

Respect the quarters: They keep inching closer to a PacWest playoff berth, but last year the Vulcans men’s basketball team came up one game short at the end of a season that absorbed heavy damage through injuries, departures and a terrible start.

Already, the 2016-17 season looks better, with the Vulcans 3-2, in the upper half of the standings after a year in which they didn’t get their third win until deep into January.

Most coaches like to break seasons into smaller chunks in order to create a sharp focus on the job ahead. For UH-Hilo, that context means the conference season is one-fourth complete with three more five-game min-seasons to go.

If the Vulcans could replicate what they have done so far and go 3-2 in each of the three remaining subsets of the season, they would finish 12-8 and surely gain a playoff berth. How likely is that?

Judge for yourself. The next five conference games include four at home, starting Tuesday with Azusa-Pacific, followed by Concordia four days later. A one-game trip to Oahu to play BYU-Hawaii precedes two home games against Holy Names and Hawaii Pacific. Nothing is given but three wins seems achievable, four if UH-Hilo can beat either Azusa or Concordia.

It gets tougher in the third five-game set with four road games against Dixie State, Cal Baptist, Azusa and Point Loma, followed by a home game against Fresno Pacific. Can they win one of those road games?

The season ends on the road with three games against Holy Names, Academy of Art and Dominican after home dates against BYU-Hawaii and Dixie State. It might all come down to those last three road games, all possible victories, all tough spots to win.

Sure, it’s possible if you can recall last year when, at this time, such a suggestion would have been laughable. Still, to make it happen, the Vulcans need to come out strong at home after the holiday break and they need to finish strong on the road.

Music, please: They have a lot to do in the athletic department, meetings to schedule, meeting to attend, meetings to forget, all of it gets very busy causing people to have short attention spans.

Let’s help them remember a band is important when the teams play. There’s no school band? The jazz band that plays the Frank Zappa concerts should be invited to a basketball game or two at the Civic, but apart from that obvious need, let’s get a band that we can count on.

It can be an alumni band, it can be a three-piece power rock band, a 12-piece ensemble with horns? We have no lack of musicians on the Big Island, let’s invite them to join together, make a commitment, show up for volleyball, basketball, other sports.

Nothing like live music to inject some fun into a game, who’s down for this? Get a group together, contact the athletic director, ask for an opportunity to support the teams. A personal request would be to ask for a ban on “Smoke On The Water,” but with a fully committed band perhaps allowances could be made.

Starting fresh: His last season was an anomaly, the one before that a nightmare, so returning Vulcans softball coach Cal Perreira will be grateful for a clean slate when he opens practice for the new season next week.

He resigned after the 2009 season, one year after limited finances persuaded the administration to chop up the 2008 schedule, leaving just 25 games, in order to save money. Softball was, and still is, the most successful program at the school and yes, the administrators decided the best approach was to take apart the most successful program in the athletic department.

It was time to go, clearly, but after a few successful seasons at a community college in Las Vegas, Perreira is ready to build on his remarkable 576-345-3 record. After 16 consecutive winning seasons, the administrative cutbacks chopped the legs out of the program in his last two seasons. The team finished 9-17 in 2008, his first losing season since his first in 1990. The damage to recruiting was felt the next year, it was time and he said goodbye after 18 seasons.

His restart begins with a new defensive lineup caused by injuries and graduation and will benefit from freshman pitcher Leah Gonzalez from Wilmington, Calif., who Perreira thinks will fit right in.

“She will get a lot of opportunities, to push for her role,” Perreira said last week, “there will be plenty of competition.”

At this point, the ace of the staff may well be sophomore Billi Derleth, a surprise last year, but a remodeled delivery and some instruction on throwing curveballs might make her the big game pitcher. Perreira likes her hunger.

“Every coach wants players like Billi,” Perreirs said. “You ask her to go pitch for 20 minutes, she pitches for an hour.”

A return to the postseason, where the Vulcans won PWC championships in 2004 and 2005 teams as well as making appearances in the NCAA Division II West Regionals in 2005, 2006 and 2007, would be a welcome step for the UH-Hilo coach who has won more games than any in school history.

And it would erase any bad memories from his previous experience with the school administration.

Delayed beginning:If history is a precedent, it’s time for David Kaneshiro’s women’s basketball team to take off. They felt short of the conference playoffs by a game last year after a 1-7 start, 1-4 in the PWC.

At the moment, they are walking in last year’s footsteps, 1-7 and 1-4. Playing four of the next five at home is a bonus, but Azusa Pacific the first opponent of 2017, will present issues. AP is the 19th-ranked 3-point field goal team in the country, averaging 8.8 per game, while the Vulcans rank 290th of 300 Division II teams in 3-point field goal defense.

A season is more than one game, more than the first eight games, as Kaneshiro’s team learned last year.

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A season that starts like this one also needs a dramatic turnaround at some point, and that would seem to be where we are for Tuesday’s first game of the new year.

Contact Bart at barttribuneherald@gmail.com