UH-Hilo’s volleyball team prides itself on having enough quality players to aggressively grind away at practice against competition as tough or tougher than its opponents.
That’s especially true in the middle.
“We have unusual depth at middle blocker, especially for a Hawaii team,” coach Chris Leonard said last week.
The benefits were seen Saturday night, when the Vulcans overcame the absence of their top two middles to beat Biola in four sets, running their winning streak to seven in the middle of stretch that Leonard has called “make-or-break.”
With reigning PacWest freshman of the week Emily Wade (day-to-day) joining all-conference middle Ashton Jessee (out indefinitely) in street clothes on the bench, Armani Moultrie (six kills, two blocks) and Kamilla Marinas (four kills) stepped up and held there own in a 23-25, 25-21, 25-19, 25-8 victory in which UHH (12-5, 7-2 in the Pacific West Conference) held the Eagles (8-9, 5-4) to just .068 hitting.
“We have depth in a lot of positrons, and that was tested tonight,” Leonard said in a school release. “But I thought Armani and Kamilla stepped up and played well.”
It wouldn’t quite be precise to say that UHH’s seven-game homestand looks like a U-shape, but the competition, on paper, is taking a downward turn before turning back up.
Biola is the only conference team the Vuls have beaten that has a winning PacWest record, and the next three visitors, Notre Dame de Namur (Thursday), Fresno Pacific (Saturday) and Dominican (Sunday), have just three combined conference wins between them and have already lost to UHH.
Shaking of a slow first set, Bria Beale pounded 21 kills and hit .389 to go along with 13 digs.
“After a tough beginning, we found ways to clean things up,” Leonard said. “It wasn’t as clean as the other night (straight sets win over Concordia), but the mark of a good team is finding a way to win even when everything isn’t going your way. I was proud of how we found ways tonight.”
By the fourth set, UHH was hitting on all cylinders, attacking at a .518 percentage.
Alexandria Parisian added 11 kills, closing out the third set by putting two balls down, Taira Kaawaloa came off the bench and posted six kills on .667 hitting, Kendall Kott contributed 37 assists and Kaila Lizama had 21 digs.
Biola, which defeated Hawaii Pacific on Thursday, was led by Bekah Roth’s nine kills.
At the tail end of the homestand, UHH takes on two upper-echelon teams, Point Loma and Azusa Pacific.
“We are getting better in a lot of ways,” Leonard said. “Our goal is to get better every day. I am very pleased with the steps we took in getting better this weekend.”