Finally, UH-Hilo faced someone its own size who would fight back and needed every inch of determination to defeat Point Loma.
The Vulcans beat the Sea Lions 29-17, 17-25, 25-20, 25-19 on Wednesday at UHH gym, running their winning streak to 11 straight.
Bria Beale worked hard to drill 16 kills and hit .234 while Emily Wade added 12 kills and Alexandria Parisian had 11 kills for the Vuls, who finished with a .179 hitting clip.
Grace Hicks drilled 14 kills and hit .345, Madie Fox slammed 14 kills and hit .308, and Claire Smith had 11 kills for the Sea Lions, who hit .176.
UH-Hilo swept its previous three opponents. One difference between Notre Dame de Namur, Fresno Pacific, and Dominican, and Point Loma is those three bottom dwellers don’t have a setter like Cara Keturakis.
The 6-foot senior was the PacWest setter of the year and turns shaky passes into hittable sets, one reason she’s second in the league in assists per set with 9.63. UHH’s Kendall Kott is first at 10.95 per set.
Keturakis finished with 45 assists; Kott had 41 assists.
“It was good win for us,” UHH coach Chris Leonard said. “Point Loma is a nice team. They do a lot of things really well. Point Loma is one of the better passing teams but we started to serve tough and wear them down. She got tired running all over the court, but she was still able to put up hittable balls.”
UHH (16-5, 11-2 PacWest) outblocked Point Loma, 8-6.5 and served tough despite both teams finishing with three aces.
Point Loma (12-7, 8-3) saw its five-match winning streak end but recently swept conference leader Azusa Pacific.
In the 29-27 first set, the Vuls rallied back from an 18-12 deficit, behind Beale’s eight kills, including the last three.
Twice the Sea Lions served for game point but were rebuffed by Amber Tai to tie it 26-26 and by Beale that tied it 27-27.
The Sea Lions served tough but had no aces for their efforts but at least forced a few free balls. The Vuls served tough too and had two aces, easy points that were much needed.
In the 25-17 second set, the Sea Lions showed that they’re not perfect. They had 12 unforced errors; the Vulcans had half that. Five of those mistakes pushed UHH ahead 5-4.
Keturakis had a dump shot for a 23-16 lead, and Hicks pounded an overpass. A hitting error returned serve to UHH.
But Point Loma passed a clean ball to Keturakis, who made a perfect set to Jaime Cymbaluk on the outside. She smashed set point to tie it 1-1.
UHH’s offense dried up. It was held to just four kills; Point Loma had 17 kills and a 88 percent sideout rate. Beale, UHH’s fountain of firepower, had one kill on nine swings.
In the 25-20 set, UHH played nearly flawless ball with just four unforced errors; the Sea Lions continued to be their own worst enemy with 10 giveaway points.
The Vuls passing was sharp and setter Kendall Kott started to find holes. Middle blocker Wade had three late kills, the last for a 21-27 lead. Then Beale added a pair, and Parisian had one off a free balls fo a 24-20 cushion.
The Sea Lions had a hitting error for game point, which pushed UHH to a 2-1 set lead.
In Game 4, Beale had five kills and a serving error, Point Loma’s bad habit of beating itself, sealed match point. The Vuls finished with 31 unforced errors; the Sea Lions had 52 unforced errors.
Much like Beale, Keturakis is one of those players where a fan will think, “That’s what a great outside hitter or setter looks like.”
The great ones make it look so easy. That’s what Beale and Keturakis do. However, in her own understated way, Kott is just as good. She had nearly the same amount of assists and gave her hitters a fighting chance.
The Sea Lions had more kills, 57-49, and digs, 71-61. But UHH had a better sideout rate in every game, except the second. Kott gave her hitters clean swings and that made enough of a difference.
The Vulcans next host Azusa Pacific at 4 p.m. Monday to conclude a seven-match homestead.