UH-Hilo’s volleyball team was back on the mainland for the first time in almost two years and playing in front of fans – some, anyway.
A return to normalcy?
“We’re still being very cautious,” coach Chris Leonard said. “We appreciate that we are here, but the team played with masks today. A very cautious approach.”
But after the Vulcans dropped the first set against winless Dominican in San Rafael, Calif., there was a sense of a return to normalcy on the court.
Bria Beale slammed 16 kills with 10 digs to lead a balanced attack Monday, and the Vulcans eased past the Penguins in four sets, 23-25, 25-16, 25-18, 25-19 to begin a four-match road trip through Northern California.
In its first match in eight days, UHH (5-2, 2-1 PacWest) jumped to a 7-1 lead before errors set in, costing it Game 1. In the final three sets, the Vuls’ hitting percentage stayed above .200. They finished at .219 and outblocked Dominican (0-12, 0-3) 8-4.
“We settled into a rhythm, and when we do that, we play the like the team we know we are capable of,” Leonard said.
Alex Parisian pounded 12 kills, and freshman Samara Cruz had her second consecutive double-digit effort with 11. Ashton Jessee and Parisian had four blocks, Kamilla Marinas added three, and setter Kendall Kott contributed 37 assists and 17 digs.
The Penguins, who have already been swept eight times this season, hit .086.
The Vulcans’ Southern California road trip in late October – with stops at Concordia, Point Loma, Azusa Pacific and Biola – figures to be much tougher than this one. UHH plays Academy of Art on Wednesday (4-8, 1-3) in Oakland.
“We know that if we don’t play well, than anybody in this conference is capable of beating us,” Leonard said. “And if we play well, we can beat anybody in this conference.”
Coming off topsy-turvy rounds during the Vuls’ first stop in Washington, Keith Ng was better than nearly everyone else during a windy Monday in Blaine at the Western Washington Invitational.
And better than nearly everyone else can leave only one person: Hawaii Pacific’s Keita Okada.
Ng fired a 1-under and trailed Okada by a stroke, and UHH was tied for fourth among nine teams heading to Tuesday’s final round.
“Keith played very well,” UHH assistant coach Sean Maekawa said.
Okada, the defending PacWest champion, won his fourth career title Saturday at the Saint Martin’s Invitational in DuPont, where Ng finished tied for 15th at 2-over (76-66-76).
One tournament that Okada didn’t win was HPU Sharks Shootout, an event Ng claimed earlier this month, relegating Okada to second.
As for rest of UHH’s contingent Monday: “There are a few holes we’d like to have back,” Maekawa said.
Andrew Otani and Dustin Franko each turned in 76s and were tied for 11th, and Noah Lau and Nicholas Gomez were both at 83.
“We did OK,” Maekawa said. “The guys hung in there. Conditions weren’t the easiest. It was windy most of the day. The weather forecast for rain was 70 percent, and luckily we only caught it at the very end, the last three holes.
“Dustin’s been OK. He’s just been having a few holes here or there, where he’ll hit a hazard or lose a ball. That’s kind of been the story of our trip.”
The Vuls trailed the front-running Sharks by six strokes. HPU’s Tomoro Shimabukuro was tied for third, two strokes in back of Ng.
The Tribune-Herald’s Kevin Jakahi contributed to this report