Vulcans’ programs return to practice for first time during pandemic

  • UHH file photo UH-Hilo women’s basketball coach David Kaneshiro said “it was nice to be back in the gym” after the Vulcans held their first workout Tuesday since the end of the 2020 season.

The schedules haven’t been set yet, but at least some of the UH-Hilo teams are getting back to practice.

The women’s basketball team held its first practice on Tuesday, a different version in the COVID-19 era.

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“It was nice to be back in the gym,” coach David Kaneshiro said. “We practiced in small groups. We had two groups with social distancing, 6 feet apart and wearing masks.

“The team is good. We haven’t been able to work out. We’ve had meetings, Zoom calls, and one-on-one meetings. All of our team is doing pretty good.”

Kaneshiro is also grateful for UHH athletic director Pat Guillen and trainer Kensei Gibbs for their work to get the team practicing again.

“All their work has gotten us to this point,” Kaneshiro said. “Once we get to the games, I’ll be happy to play anyone. They did a lot of hard work and planning.”

He hasn’t thought about the pod schedule yet, playing powerful Hawaii Pacific and woeful Chaminade a bunch of times.

The Vulcans, who finished 10-16 in 2019-20, have lost 19 straight to the Sharks and swept the Silverswords last season.

While basketball, which normally starts in November, would start in January, volleyball will probably start in March to avoid gym conflicts.

The Vuls are coming off a 23-8 season and an NCAA regional appearance in 2019.

“The players were excited to get back in the gym,” coach Chris Leonard said. “For the returnees, it’s been seven months. For the new players, it’s nice to get them in the gym and learn our system. Part of the return to play plan is to build up the speed and fundamentals.”

Volleyball is the sport most competitive against the Hawaii schools.

UHH finished second to Azusa Pacific in the PacWest standings, but Chaminade and HPU were third and fourth.

“The competition is really good,” Leonard said. “I’ve known Kahala (Kabalis Hoke) and Jenic (Tumaneng) before they got their positions. All three Hawaii schools are very competitive. It’s a big rivalry.”

The Silverswords, coached by Kabalis Hoke, and Sharks (Tumaneng) each lost an All-PacWest first-team pick.

The Vulcans return all-league hitter Bria Beale for her senior year and sophomore setter Kendall Kott, second-teamer last season. They’ll welcome back senior middle blocker Ashton Jesse, who suffered a knee injury and played just 12 matches, and welcome in a strong recruiting class.

In short, UHH has all the pieces and are ready to hunt for its first PacWest title since 2011.

“One of the benefits (of the pandemic) is we would have two weeks of practice before our first nonconference tournament,” Leonard said. “We’ve got a lot more time to work with the players. We lost time in the spring, but we can work on stuff we normally don’t work on when we have matches on the weekend.”

UHH softball has a February start, and the team finished 11-10 in a pandemic-shortene season but had worlds of potential.

The biggest head-turner was three wins over No. 8 Concordia and All-American Callie Nunes.

“We gave the players an option,” coach Callen Perreira said. “They’re having their workouts on their own and doing what they need to do. We’ll meet in January, and hopefully there’s more certainty there.

“We should be very competitive like we were last year. Our pitching might be a little better with two freshmen. We could have a total of five pitchers.”

He’s not exactly a fan of the POD schedule, not knowing how the games will shake out to determine a regional representative.

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“I’m on that committee, and there’s been no mention of that,” he said. “A lot is still up in the air right now.”

That’s true, but at least the Vuls are getting ready for battle.

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