Volleyball: Vulcans have ‘unfinished business’ on Oahu

  • RICK OGATA photo UH-Hilo has dug deep – including Kaila Lizama here – and won 12 in a row since losing to Chaminade and Hawaii Pacific at home.

It’s a business trip, a revenge tour and a conference of PacWest contenders all wrapped into one short trip to Honolulu.

UH-Hilo’s volleyball win streak stands at 12, and not 15, because of a lost weekend at home six weeks ago.

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“We have unfinished business with Chaminade and Hawaii Pacific,” freshman middle blocker Emily Wade said.

The Vulcans (17-5, 12-2 Pacific West Conference) lost to their rivals in that order Sept. 21-22 in their conference openers, but they’ll play the Sharks (15-7, 11-3) first this time around, at 7 p.m. Saturday, then make the quick turnaround and play the Silverswords (19-3, 13-1) at 1 p.m. Sunday.

The three teams are separated by two games at the top of the conference standings and the Vulcans’ state of mind should be on high after taking out defending conference champ Azusa Pacific on Monday.

“We have played with a little chip on our shoulder all season long,” said UHH coach Chris Leonard, whose team was picked fifth in the PacWest preseason poll. “Our destiny is in our own hands. We have the teams that we need to beat right in front of us over the last half of the regular season.

“We have some unfinished business in Oahu. With the island rivalries, you never have any trouble getting up for those matches no matter what the circumstance but have something to prove this time.”

Wade only took a combined 38 swings in those two earlier losses – Chaminade won in five, and HPU four – but she surpassed that in one fell swoop against Azusa, which she dominated, taking 46 swings en route to a career-high 24 kills.

The Vulcans were at their balanced best against the Cougars. Fellow middle Armani Moultrie was one kills shy of a career-high with 16 and libero Kaila Lizama’s 35 digs were a career-best.

“Pretty crazy numbers from our middles,” Leonard said.

Chaminade had won 13 in a row until the Azusa swept them last week in Honolulu, and the Cougars also handled HPU in three sets before getting to Hilo.

As if there wasn’t enough on the line, the weekend also will serve as a chance for teams to pad their regional resume. The first official NCAA West poll will be announced next week. At the end of the regular season, the champs of the PacWest, Great Northwest Athletic Conference and the California Collegiate Athletic Association will garner automatic bids, with five at-large teams also gaining an invite to regionals.

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UHH plays its next six matches on the road, before finishing the regular season with two home matches.

“We have a lot to fight for, and it’s still just the beginning,” Wade said.

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