Beale appeal: Sophomore transfer has heavy hand in Vuls’ early success

  • RICK OGATA photo Bria Beale leads the Vulcans in kills, but she also plays a key role UH-Hilo’s passing game. Coach Gene Krieger said the sophomore transfer is heavily responsible for UH-Hilo's strong start.

This could have been a story about Bria Beale, a capable Division I transfer who is doing her part to help UH-Hilo volleyball tread water.

It’s not.

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This is a story about Bria Beale, the talented and tireless transfer who is doing everything she can as the Vulcans thrive.

“She is a big part of (our improvement),” coach Gene Krieger said, “because of the workload she carries on her shoulders.”

UH-Hilo’s second-place standing in the Pacific West Conference and 5-1 mark is the product of many players doing their jobs well.

Senior Evelin Solyomvari focuses on offense and plays the front row. Middles Kiley Davis and Ashton Jessee have been solid, seniors Mina Grant and Basia Sauni have been ever-dependable at libero and setter, respectively, while freshmen Alexandria Parisian, Teisa Tuioti and Maile Powell have flashed.

Then there’s Beale, who worries about offense, the back row, serving and she’s pivotal when it comes to passing – an underrated aspect of her game – since the Vuls run a two-person serve-receive system between Beale and Grant.

“Bria is an all-around player with all-around skills, which makes every player better, because she can do everything well,” Krieger said. “She’s got pressure every serve.”

Pressure?

That’s why Beale is here.

“I love pressure,” the sophomore said. “I love expectations to live up to. It’s a challenge that I love facing. When I don’t succeed, I’m trying harder and when I do succeed it feels amazing.

“I love pressure.”

Eight wins in nine matches and a recent 3-1 road trip left Beale and the Vuls (9-3) – a program trying to right the ship after six consecutive losing seasons – feeling far more amazing than not, and that’s ratcheted up expectations ahead of a what could be prove to be make-or-break six-match homestand. Winless Academy of Art on Friday and Holy Names (3-10) on Monday are the first two opponents, but challenges await with Chaminade and then Concordia and Biola, teams with revenge on their minds.

“I know our next two opponents are not as challenging as the ones we just faced last week, but those are the ones that can sneak up on you if overlook them,” Beale said. “I think the next six games we’ll be defining as far as the history of the school the last decade. I’m just very excited. I want to play one game at a time, but it will be very defining.”

Last season, Beale played 23 sets for UC Irvine as an outside hitter and defensive specialist, travelling with the Anteaters in their four-set loss at UH-Manoa.

If Beale would have stayed in Irvine, she was told she’d be a libero.

Instead, she chose to be an outside hitter and do-it-all Vul. Beale is tied for the team lead in kills with Solyomvari, all the while handling an assortment of other duties.

“Internally, I feel like I should be able to do well 100 percent of the time because (of being a Division I recruit),” said Beale, a former cheerleader from Eastvale, Calif. “I’ve grown up in a way that the highest level is the only level.”

At 5 feet, 11 inches, Beale has to hit against taller players, and she says she’s constantly working on her vertical leap. What has impressed Krieger is her uncanny ability to detect weaknesses in opposing teams and dissect the court with well-placed shots.

“Something I pride myself on is having a high volleyball IQ,” Beale said. “Knowing where to go, and what shots to take. Working smarter not harder.”

UHH turned heads in Southern California, posting wins at Concordia, Biola and Point Loma, all of whom featured winning records.

Beale said coaches would come up to Krieger after the game and say “welcome to the top five.”

More like top two.

The Vuls swept Point Loma on Saturday and afterward the Sea Lions posted a video of a make-shift news conference in which coach Jonathan Scott watched uncomfortably – he looked downright miserable – as a few of his players extolled the virtues of the Vuls’ performance.

When asked what his team needs to improve on, Scott said, “Work ethic.”

“He subbed every player and they still couldn’t get anything past us,” Beale said.

“Our identity is, I wouldn’t say underdogs, I think we’re not what people are expecting, and we use that to our advantage,” she said. “We definitely have a chip on our shoulder.

“I don’t think (Scott) expected what he got from us.”

As for the Vulcans’ work ethic?

“There isn’t a practice where we’re not wiping the floor with towels cause we all sweat so much,” Beale said. “No plays off, that’s one of our mottos.”

And get this.

The Vulcans actually like each other, and team camaraderie isn’t to be taken for granted, Beale said.

“Its actually super surprising, especially with women’s sports, that everyone gets along,” she said. “We love to hang out with each other, we try to see movies together.

“My team last year, once the game was over we didn’t talk to each other until practice the next day.”

In Krieger’s book, the Vuls are one or two games ahead of schedule, and, of course, all their momentum could be sapped if they stumble once or twice at home.

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Before the Academy of Art match, Krieger is likely to remind his charges of the adage not to confuse the beginnings of success with achievement.

“I think this could be the year, and next year also is going to be the year, and the year after that as long as I’m here, I hope it’s the year,” Beale said. “I love it here. It’s beautiful.”

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