Volleyball Vuls set for fan-free home opener

  • KELSEY WALLING/Tribune-Herald UH-Hilo senior Bria Beale leads the Pacific West Conference in kills per set (3.92) heading into the Vulcans' home opener Wednesday night against Biola.

The UH-Hilo volleyball Vulcans are more close-knit than when they left, which just makes sense.

Proximity is a theme so far this season in the PacWest Conference, where five teams at the top have one loss apiece.

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“I expected parity in our conference,” UHH coach Chris Leonard said, “but I didn’t think there would be five together like this.”

Two of those five – Biola (7-5, 3-1 PacWest) and the Vuls (8-2, 5-1) – meet at 7 p.m. Wednesday. Better for being out on the open road but happy to be home, the Vuls play at their school gym for the first time this season. UHH played its spring matches without home fans, so they are used to the concept. Fans are still not allowed in the building, a school rule that extends to Saturday’s match against Concordia – another one of those one-loss teams – as well.

“We know our bench is going to have to brings some energy so we can manufacture it without a crowd,” Leonard said.

He called Biola “big and physical.”

The Eagles were unbeaten in conference play until dropping a five-set thriller to rival Azusa Pacific on Saturday. Biola owns a win against two-loss Point Loma and Concordia’s Eagles.

This figures to be a step up in competition for UHH, which cruised through its Northern California road trip – its first voyage to the mainland since 2019 – going 4-0 against teams that have combined for just four conference victories.

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“One thing that was nice about being back (on the mainland) is that we’re together more than before,” Leonard said. “We took van rides together, we ate together. It helped the team grow. We bonded off the court and we bonded on it.”

As a team, the Vulcans lead the conference in hitting percentage (.231), kills per set (13.95), and digs (18.78). UHH is second in service aces (1.89). Kendall Kott leads the league in assists (10.83) and Bria Beale is tops in kills per set (3.92). Alex Parisian is second in aces (0.50), Ashton Jessee is third in hitting percentage (.331) and fourth in blocks (1.00). Tani Hoke is fourth in aces (0.44).

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