Coming on the heels of a victory against fellow PacWest contender Chaminade, UH-Hilo took the court Sunday against Hawaii Pacific in a match that, on paper, figured to be easier.
Coach Chris Leonard said the Vulcans respected the Sharks and were ready for a fight, but while the effort was there, the execution sometimes wasn’t.
The Vuls climbed out of a two-set hole before falling short in Game 5, dropping their first Pacific West Conference match, 25-22, 25-21, 25-27, 13-25, 15-13 in Honolulu in what was HPU’s second win of the season.
“HPU played well and we didn’t execute as cleanly as we would have liked to,” Leonard said.
That was especially true defensively. The blocking exhibition that paved the way against the Silverswords fell short for the Vuls (4-2, 1-1 PacWest) a day later against the Sharks (2-8, 1-1).
UHH was outblocked 13-10, and Leonard said when the Vuls came up with touches on HPU balls, they weren’t always able to make a smooth enough transition.
“We knew HPU played a game that was difficult to defend, because their hitters hit differently,” Leonard said. “We served well and got them out of system.”
Still, he said, “HPU hit very effectively against our block.”
The Sharks’ attack percentage was .240 – dwarfing their .103 average – and they hit .476 in the fifth set.
UHH got to Game 5 behind another big match from Bria Beale, who blistered 22 kills, with 10 digs, three aces and two blocks. Consecutive kills by the senior all-conference outside hitter ended the third set, and UHH scored eight consecutive points in the fourth set to take control.
In the decisive set, the Vuls led at 6-5 on a kill by Alexandria Parisian (14 kills, four blocks, 16 digs), but the Sharks scored the next five points – Kohana Fukuchi came up with an ace and Al Rumpel and Ella Dotson had kills.
Nicole Ferris’ kill set up aloha ball at 14-11, and after Beale put down two balls, Ferris’ kill ended matters.
Dotson led HPU with 17 kills, Lauren Christie followed with 16 kills, and Ferris and Rumpel had eigh and seven, respectively.
Freshman Samara Cruz tallied a season-high 12 kills, and senior middle Ashton Jessee added 11 as the Vuls hit .249.
Transfer Nicole Schmitz (four kills) went down with an injury in the second set, and Leonard said “getting healthy” would be one of the team’s top objectives this week in practice as it gets set for its first mainland road trip since 2019.