Slip, but no slide: Vuls are leading men this time, beat W. Washington in soccer

  • JOE POELLOT/UHH UH-Hilo’s Jake Plumb tries to block a shot by Western Washington’s Tyler Hughes on Sunday during the Vulcans’ 3-2 victory in a nonconference match at the school’s baseball field.

  • JOE POELLOT/UHH Western Washington goalkeeper Brandon Wolter corrals a ball in front of a host of UH-Hilo players Sunday during the Vulcans’ 3-2 victory in a nonconference match at the school’s baseball field.

The sloppy conditions might have been ripe for a comeback, but this time UH-Hilo’s men’s soccer team wasn’t.

Just one match older but seemingly many more the wiser and bolder, the Vulcans played from in front and prospered Sunday, holding off Western Washington 3-2 at their campus baseball field to cap an even nonconference season.

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“A little bit of experience is the big thing,” coach Paul Regrutto said. “Western Washington is a good team. Their record might not show it, but that’s a good team. We’re not used to being in games and winning against competition the caliber of Western Washington and Seattle Pacific.”

UHH had Seattle Pacific where it wanted it Wednesday, forging ahead 2-0 before the Falcons stormed back in the second half and won 3-2 in overtime. The Vuls could have faced another downturn Sunday when the Vikings’ Gus Diehl scored in the 74 minute to cut UHH’s lead to 2-1.

“Because it happened to us (Wednesday), we were going to make sure it didn’t happen again,” senior center back Bo Antonissen said.

UHH (2-2) didn’t just hold on, it went on the offensive, with Tom Vorkastner breaking free for a goal with just 90 seconds remaining. That turned into an important insurance marker when Western Washington’s Drew Farnsworth converted on a penalty kick less than a minute later.

“I think we were way more organized,” Antonissen said. “I think from the back we were a lot better and smarter in keeping the ball, and that made it little bit more secure.”

Wet and muddy as they were, the Vulcans have a good taste in their mouth – and an even record – as they gear up for Pacific West Conference play, which begins Wednesday at home against Azusa Pacific. In Regrutto’s first two full seasons, the Vuls were a combined 2-7 heading to conference action.

“When you look at this game, I think you say to yourself the process is working,” Regrutto said.

UHH scored less than 10 minutes in as Antonissen sent a long ball to Alexander Hernandez-Herbach, who deftly targeted a ball into the upper right of the goal.

Considering the weather, Western Washington coach Greg Brisbon said, in a school release, the match amounted to “just a battle of the 18-yard box.”

In the second half, the Vuls won a battle, putting home their first set piece of the season when Caesar Hjerten headed in a corner kick taken by Kalei Tolentino-Perry.

The rain picked up in the first half and was heaviest in the second half. With large divots, if not mud, littering the field, true bounces were far from a given.

“I do think the conditions were ripe for a comeback, because it’s so sloppy you just start serving balls into the box,” Regrutto said “Everybody is slipping and that makes it challenging defensively.”

Playing for the first time this season, goalkeeper Christian Souza was credited with three saves. The Vuls put six shots on frame

Western Washington (2-5) finished 1-2 on its Hawaii road trip, with the win, 2-0, coming Friday against Hawaii Pacific.

“Credit to (UHH),” Brisbon said. “They had a great first goal and they had a good defensive scheme that at times was difficult to break.”

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Antonissen thinks that could become a theme. No. 17 Seattle Pacific is 5-1 after dusting off Chaminade 4-0 on Saturday, and Western Washington qualified for the NCAA Division II playoffs in 2019 and hasn’t endured a losing season since 2015.

“I think our confidence is pretty high,” Antonissen said. “We have good chances. These were both pretty good teams, around the same level as the top of our conference, so I think we can (be) first in our conference. That is what we are striving for.”

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