Next week, UH-Hilo’s women’s basketball team dutifully will take the court against national powerhouse Hawaii Pacific in a bid to pull off a huge upset that has already narrowly evaded them once this season.
Before they do, maybe the Vulcans should talk to the school’s women’s tennis team.
Kallen Mizuguchi’s ladies finally cracked the code, taking down No. 5 HPU 4-3 on Monday afternoon at Fairmont Orchid Resort on the Kohala Coast.
“That is pretty cool, I really don’t have the words right now,” Mizuguchi said after what was easily the biggest win in his two-plus years on the job. “To beat the No. 5 team in the country is something to be proud of.”
With the score tied 3-3 and the other matches finished, all eyes were on Vulcan newcomer Carolina Alfonsin and HPU’s Valentina Mokrova
“This is what you play for, this is what you coach for,” Mizuguchi told Alfonsin before to the start of the third set. “Go out, give it your all, and enjoy the moment.”
Alfonsin, a native of Mexico and a transfer from Sonoma State, fell behind to the Sharks’ sophomore 3-1.
But she then reeled off four straight games to take a 5-3 lead. Mokrova battled back to stay alive in the next game, but Alfonsin broke her opponent’s serve to claim the match. She shook hands and then was crushed with hugs by her teammates.
The Vulcans put HPU on upset alert in doubles. Alfonsin and Hannah Highsmith took down Mokrova and Elodie Busson on court one, 6-3, and UHH’s Hikari Osaki and Sandra Dafincescu defeated Rikona Murakami and Marta Ruszczynska by the same score on court three. HPU won the No. 2 doubles match, but the Vulcans claimed the point by winning two out of three.
Highsmith gave the Vulcans a 2-0 lead with a quick 6-1, 6-1 triumph on court five, but HPU countered with Busson’s 6-4, 6-4 win over Dafincescu on court two. Busson was ranked No. 2 in the West Region last year and was named an ITA All-American.
Carmelle Joyner gutted out a 6-3, 6-4 win on court four for UHH to give them a 3-1 lead, but the Sharks won the next two matches to notch things at 3-3. Marleen Tilgner, ranked No. 4 in the West last year, edged out UHH freshman Hikari Osaki on the stadium court, 6-0, 7-6 (7-5) and Ruszczynska went three sets before topping Anouk van Hoek, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 on court six.
That left Alfonsin and Mokrova’s match, which lasted a little more than two hours and carried each team’s full attention.
“Carolina really battled,” Mizuguchi said. “Now we have to figure out a way to call on whatever is left in the tank for this next match.”
There wasn’t much left.
The Sharks bounced back with a 4-0 win in the nightcap, sending the Vuls back to Hilo with a 3-1 record.