No time for 5: Beale, Vuls vanquish Holy Names in sweep

No. 5 returned, and – funny how this works – there was no need to worry about a fourth set this time, let alone a fifth.

That means UH-Hilo’s volleyball team is halfway home and all alone atop the Pacific West Conference, albeit by just a half-game ahead of Azusa Pacific.

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It hasn’t been easy. The next step, by the way, never is.

“We’re a resilient bunch. This was a challenging homestand in a lot of regards, and we faced a little bit of adversity along the way,” coach Chris Leonard said of a four-gamer that saw the Vulcans (12-2, 9-1 PacWest) run their win streak to eight. “Collectively as a team, we find ways to pull through and step up.”

Of course, resiliency has a way of giving way to efficiency when Bria Beale is involved.

The all-league outside hitter sat out Wednesday’s match “as a precaution,” Leonard said, after the Vuls overcame one-win Dominican in their third consecutive five-setter. Beale was back Saturday night and her ever-excellent self in a 25-21, 25-17, 25-16 victory against two-win Holy Names.

“She only had one hitting error, late in the match, but she had a really strong offensive performance for us,” Leonard said.

Beale reached the 19-kill threshold for the third time this season and tied for her second-highest hitting percentage (.360) on 50 swings. As a result, instead of waiting until the fifth set to step on the gas, the Vuls did so in sets 2-3, and Leonard emptied the bench, with sophomore Mia Takai, a Hilo High alum, and freshman Nicole Logan making their first appearances of the season.

UHH recorded 15 kills in each set in hitting .282. Freshman Samara Cruz (.250) reached double-digit kills for the fourth consecutive match with 10, Kamilla Marinas (.385) added seven and Sydney Gott (.300) had five.

“When we are taking care of the ball and in system,” Leonard said, “we’ve got a lot of offensive weapons.”

Cruz and Marinas played central roles three day earlier in Beale’s absence against Dominican, as did Amber Tai, who had played only three sets total entering the match. The trio combined for 50 of their 58 kills, and the Vuls served their way to victory with 13 aces (five for Tani Hoke). Cruz had four aces, including two as UHH won seven consecutive points on her serve to surge early in the fifth set.

“Depth has been a strength for us,” Leonard said. “We’ve tested that depth certainly over this homestand.”

Opposite Alexandria Parisian went down with a leg injury against Biola, and Nicole Schmitz hasn’t played in the past eight matches and isn’t listed on the team roster on the school web site. So, after a weeklong midseason break, the Vuls’ depth could be put to the test more than ever as they get set for their hardest tour of the season to see the Southern California four — two (Concordia and Biola) whom the Vuls have played and two (Azusa and two-loss Point Loma) who will see UHH for the first time.

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Leonard was asked Saturday night if his team had earned a few days off. He was only ready to commit to one.

“We do have a challenging week to get to prepare for what’s going to be a crucial road trip for us,” he said.

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