As uber-efficient as UH-Hilo freshman Emily Wade has been lately, alas, she hasn’t been perfect.
The Pacific West Conference didn’t hold it against her.
Neither did Vulcans coach Chris Leonard, nor anyone else.
But Wade is keeping track, and if you’re setting goals, she figures, you might as well set them high. Forget the slender 6-foot-3 middle blocker’s robust 21-kill, .481-attack percentage against Notre Dame de Namur, Wade is more likely to focus on the minuscule, her two pesky hitting errors, which kept her from a volleyball-style perfect game.
“I remember exactly when (the errors) happened,” Wade said. “Man, if those would have just not happened, I would have had … oh, my head spins.”
The Vulcans and their PacWest freshman of the week continue their endless pursuit of perfection when they open a season-long and perhaps season-defining seven-match home stand at 7 p.m. Thursday against Concordia. Biola’s Eagles visit Saturday on a home stretch that extends until Oct. 28.
“We know we have a bunch of games that are make-or-break for us,” Leonard said. “We’re working hard to be prepared for these. They are going to be important if we want have an opportunity at the postseason.”
The Vuls (10-5, 5-2 PacWest) have won five in row on the road since losing their only two home matches to date.
Wade hasn’t forgotten.
“I’m extremely competitive, so I would really like to go 7-0 (at home),” she said. “Especially since we haven’t won a home game yet and especially since my friends here are watching.”
Fans may take note of Concordia’s height, and they’ll definitely take notice of its associate coach. The Eagles (9-5, 3-3) ride in on a three-game winning streak with none other than Gene Krieger on their bench. Krieger coached UHH in 2017 and ‘18 before resigning due to personal reasons.
In this day and age where film study allows a coach to have an eye in the sky for every team’s match, there aren’t many secrets, Leonard said, for any team. He doesn’t expect Krieger to have any insider knowledge advantage.
“We’re a different team in a lot of ways,” Leonard said. “We have a lot of faces and perhaps some things he hasn’t seen.”
Krieger recruited the lanky Wade, so he knows she has length to spare. If opponents think she lacks power, Wade is more to than happy to compensate with speed. She ranks ninth on the PacWest in hitting percentage and fifth in blocks, and her 142 kills are third on UHH behind outside hitters Bria Beale (207) and Amber Tai (147).
“I try to use my height and length for off-sets and sets that aren’t quite there and a little bit weird,” Wade said. “I have an advantage getting over (to sets). If I’m set high enough, I can get over some blocks.”
Middle blocker was seen as a position of strength for UHH entering the season, and Leonard’s expectations have largely been met. Junior Ashton Jessee, fourth in the PacWest in blocks, is out indefinitely with a knee injury, missing all five games on the road trip. In Jessee’s absence, senior Armani Moultrie has received increased playing time, and redshirt freshman Kamilla Marinas has filled in as well.
“We’re aggressive, for sure, in the middle, and (Emily) has been a huge part of it,” Leonard said. “If we’re passing well, and fortunately we’ve been passing pretty well, it gives us an opportunity to run our middles.
“We can either set her, or if we don’t she’s a strong decoy and they have to commit to her, because if they don’t, she’ll beat them. If they do commit, our outsides are hitting one-on-one.”
It helps that Wade feels ready-made chemistry with freshman setter Kendall Kott, who is first in the PacWest in assists (10.7 per set). The two were club teammates in the Sacramento, Calif., area.
And don’t let the slight frame fool you. Wade said she likes to eat.
“I really love food,” she said. “I just had a teri burger for the first time. A new kind of burger. I love burgers.”