KEAAU — It was death by a thousand paper cuts for the UH-Hilo women’s soccer team in a 1-0 loss to Hawaii Pacific and maybe its postseason hopes as well.
The Vulcans fell from second to third place in the PacWest standings and will likely tumble far down the NCAA West Regional rankings poll, which helps determine the seven-team postseason field, should they lose to first-place Point Loma on Monday.
That’s the last home game and senior day for UHH, which struggled to put away scoring chances, a perplexing season-long thorn and counterbalance to normally strong defense, on Saturday at Paiea Stadium.
Sometimes, it’s the small stuff that hurts so much.
UHH defenders Jodi Lillie, Janelle Schwartz, Lucy Maino, and Maleni Avalos are tough tacklers and markers. But there was one little mistake, either a miscommunication (usually a goalie’s call to assign markers on set pieces) or an oversight.
In the first half, the Sharks scored on a corner kick when Ebony Madrid, who wasn’t marked, put in a header off Josefin VonDerBurg’s well-placed ball.
It was simply a defensive lapse for the Vuls, who had no one goal-side (between the shooter and goalie) of Madrid, whose shot went in at the 35:14 mark.
The Vuls had more shots than the Sharks, 11-7, and a good amount of set-piece opportunities with eight corner kicks. HPU had three corner kicks; only one was needed.
“We played really well in the first 20 minutes. Then we struggled after that,” said UHH coach Gene Okamura of his offense that moved the ball, created attacks and then just disappeared. “This one really hurts. We need to get a good result on Monday to have a chance. We just didn’t finish a couple of opportunities early.”
UHH (7-3-2, 4-2-1 PacWest) also had to swallow a taste of its own medicine as HPU (5-4-4, 3-2-2) played a familiar-looking pressure defense — tough tackling and tenacious marking.
The Sharks also offered a primer on how to play Dilly dally stall ball. Free kick? Let a defender jog from 20 yards away to take the kick. Throw-in? Kick the ball off a Vulcan to drain more time.
That intel would have been helpful in a painful 2-1 overtime loss to Concordia last Thursday. UHH led 1-0 with 25 seconds left.
In the second half, UHH moved midfielder Tiera Arakawa, the team’s most creative playmaker, to right forward to juice the firepower.
That robbed the offense of someone who is an expert at setting up others, putting the precise touch on corner passes for wings to run down or finding seams in the backline.
The Sharks countered by double-teaming every wing attack, stomping out little fires before they could turn into dangerous crosses.
It didn’t help that UHH’s passing accuracy went missing, too. There were long passes that went right to Sharks for easy turnovers or out of bounds for throw-ins or goal kicks, both time-draining plays.
HPU goalie Lauren Spencer had seven saves, none more important than one with eight minutes left. Lillie stole a ball and made a perfect pass down the middle to Carlie Reader.
Spencer read the play all the way. She bolted off her line and made the save, another painful paper cut.
“She’s our senior captain and a strong leader,” HPU coach Gina Brewer said. “We focused on tough defense.”
Men, HPU 2, UHH 0: The Sea Warriors scored two late goals after UHH goalie Nick Williams was injured in a collision and left the game.
Jair Espinoza scored with 10 minutes left, and Teppi Nagami added a goal with a minute remaining for HPU (5-7, 3-4).
UHH goalie Selvin Sandoval took the loss for the Vulcans (3-9, 2-5), who were outshot 16-7.
The Vulcans swept Holy Names 25-19, 25-13, 25-13 at Oakland, Calif., to open a five-match road trip to win their second straight.
Ashton Jessee led the balanced attack with 11 kills, Bria Beale added nine kills, and Alexandria Parisian had seven kills for the Vuls (14-5, 10-3), who had a .315 hitting clip.
Fanny Chow, Summer Williams, and Allie Baranoweski had five kills each for the Hawks (3-17, 2-13), who hit negative .039.
The Vuls placed second at the Chaminade Invitational, the final race of the regular season.
Olivia Jarvis was UHH’s first finisher in 20:35 in the 5K course. The other Vulcans were Makena Morris, 11th, 21:31; Caitlin Kawaiaea, 12th, 21:53; and Meghan Langbehn, 14th, 2209.
HPU’s Roby Kaltenbrun took first in 19:34, and the Sharks won the team title.
The PacWest championships will be held Friday, Nov. 2 in Fresno, Calif.