Vulcans too cool for pod? Handling ‘challenging’ foes, volleyball team looks worthy of more

  • KELSEY WALLING UH-Hilo is using its service game – and serve-receive – to help itself to a 7-1 start in Pacific West Conference Hawaii pod play.

As UH-Hilo’s women’s volleyball team reels off win after win against two teams that finished in the top third during the last Pacific West Conference season, the thought has to be rolling around a few players’ minds.

What if is there was a postseason this spring? How far could we go?

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“It has definitely been a challenge for us, and I think we definitely have one of the more challenging pods,” coach Chris Leonard said Sunday, not looking past Hawaii Pacific and Chaminade. “I think when you’re having a year like this and you’re having success, you’d like to know how you stack up against other teams.”

Hold that thought.

The Vuls (7-1) will have to wait until the fall to prove themselves against the PacWest teams from Southern California and the best of Division II, though a developmental season of regional play certainly beats the alternative. The NCAA Division I championship schedule was unveiled Sunday, and the Rainbow Wahine, through little fault of their own, were nowhere to found because their season was canceled long ago. That ended ended a streak of 27 consecutive NCAA appearances.

UHH continued to make the most of its makeshift season Saturday night at its gym, or riding out a hot start from Chaminade (3-4) before responding for a 20-25, 25-15, 25-18, 25-18 victory. Taira Kaawaloa enjoyed another stellar match: 14 kills on 42 swings, .262 hitting clip, and 11 digs for the Vulcans, who hit .178 to finish 4-0 during the weekend and win their fifth straight.

Bria Beale also added 14 kills but hit just .083 on 48 attempts and 13 digs. Alexandra Parisian had nine kills and four aces, and Tani Hoke produced 26 digs.

“We started off slow,” Leonard said, “and Chaminade looked like they were on fire. Once we got rolling, it was really a switch.”

That the Silverswords came out determined wasn’t all that unexpected. Earlier in the day, they lost to HPU (2-6) in five sets. But it was more so how they lost. Chaminade took the first two sets, lost Game 3 25-23 and Game 4 25-22, to force a final set. The Silverswords trailed 14-12 but were able to get to 15-15 before the Sharks set their best player, Cameryn Collie, who knocked down consecutive kills to finish it off.

“Chaminade is big and physical,” Leonard said. “When they are in system they are tough to defend.

“We served really though and that made a huge difference for us.”

It’s also becoming a theme.

Leonard pointed out that UHH is tops in the conference in service ages per game (2.21), while also allowing the fewest aces per game, 1.24.

Point Loma is second in each category.

“It’s hard to compare stats across the (pods),” Leonard said.

A true comparison will have to wait, but for now UHH can gear up for the third Hawaii pod party, April 17-18 in Honolulu.

Golf and rain

With wet weather in Hilo and Oahu on Sunday, the Vulcans’ men’s golf team had the stage to itself, and it didn’t disappoint at Waikoloa Beach Course. The Vuls shot 6-over 286 in the second round of the Hawaii Challenge, pulling away from HPU by nine strokes. Chaminade was 81-over.

The Sharks’ Keita Okada closed with a 2-under 68 to catch first-round leader Dustin Franko (71) of UHH for a two-stroke win at 138. Another shot back was the Vuls’ Noah Lau (70) at 1-over. Andrew Otani (72) was fifth at 6-over. Rounding out the scoring for UHH were Andrew Otani (74-72), Nicholas Gomez (79-73), Junghwan Lee (77-77) and Ethan Hironaga (84-81).

The three schools play Pearl City Country club on Oahu next weekend.

• The Sharks-Vuls baseball doubleheader in Hilo was postponed, and makeup games haven’t been announced.

UHH (4-4, 4-1 PacWest) won 8-1 on Saturday and was trailing 6-1 in the second inning when the second game postponed by rain. The teams plan to resume that game at 4 p.m. Friday at Les Murakami Stadium on Oahu before a scheduled five-game series (a single game Friday night and doubleheaders Saturday and Sunday).

• UHH softball couldn’t escape the rain Sunday against HPU in Kaneohe, Oahu, and it’s the only thing slowing the Vuls down these day. They were looking to build on a 7-0 start, but that will have to wait until next Saturday against Chaminade, back at Kaneohe.

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One game will be made up as an additional contest April 23 in Kaneohe – the teams are scheduled to play April 24 and 25 – according to a school release. Three other games between the two schools that were rained out in March in Hilo will be scheduled and announced at a later time, the release said.

Kevin Jakahi contributed to this report

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