Hawaii Pacific’s Chelsey Buyuan finished with 20 digs Saturday in a four-game victory against the University of Hawaii at Hilo.
The University of Hawaii at Hilo’s Bria Morgan (10) and Olivia Lane try to make a play at the net Saturday against Hawaii Pacific.
By MATT GERHART
Tribune-Herald sports writer
Hawaii Pacific’s Chelsey Buyuan was playing just down the road from her high school stomping ground, but there were times Saturday that UHH Gym didn’t feel anything close to home. A tad out of sync early on like many of her teammates, the Waiakea graduate’s confidence dropped to the point that she even asked her coach not to have her serve to open the third set. That idea was quickly rejected by Daryl Kapis.
“There was a moment where I wasn’t feeling it, I just had this little thing,” said Buyuan, who after a little coaxing from her coach went on to serve four straight winning points. “Then I had that run. After that was I was OK, it was just a momentary lapse.”
As Buyuan got back her mojo, so to did the Sea Warriors, who pulled away to send the University of Hawaii at Hilo volleyball team to its seventh consecutive loss to open the season. Freshman outside Kasey Thompson posted 18 kills with just four errors and freshman hitter Amanda Moriarty had a team-high 21 as HPU eventually overpowered the Vulcans 23-25, 25-23, 25-20, 25-17 in a Pacific West Conference opener.
Tabbed to finish fifth in the preseason PacWest poll — one spot ahead of the Vuls — HPU (7-2, 1-0 PacWest) made more errors than in any previous victory this season but still managed to win its fourth straight.
“We were exceptionally lucky that we were able to somewhat regroup,” Kapis said. “You’re going to have games during the season that are not your day.”
Vulcans freshman Bria Morgan certainly had something to do with that by turning in another stellar effort. The outside hitter drilled a match-high 26 kills on a season-high 81 swings to lead Vulcans hitters for the sixth time this season. Morgan started off torrid with eight kills in the opening game, but UHH struggled when it couldn’t string together good passes and couldn’t capitalize on a one-point lead late in Game 2. Sophomore middle blocker Olivia Lane had six kills but five errors, and senior Patty Snel posted six kills with 17 digs.
“On the competitive side we did a pretty good job,” UHH coach Tino Reyes said. “On the big points we didn’t perform as well, but at least we’re getting to the big points now. In the last couple of matches we never got to the big points, so there was some improvement there. It’s a work-in-progress.”
Reyes tinkered his rotation and liked what middle blocker Abbey Wade and outside hitter Andi Pickens brought to a starting lineup that included four freshmen. Another first-year player, setter Jolie Au, added 34 assists.
Like they’ve been all season, though, UHH (0-7, 0-1) was outhit (.220-.129), and was simply overmatched by a team that had too many arms.
The Sea Warriors’ leading hitter, sophomore Haley Doerfler, was held to nine kills, but in stepped the 6-foot-1 Thompson, who hit .350 in what was her best offensive match of her young career.
“She was exceptional and really helped turn the tide for us,” Kapis said.
Senior Sanoe Recca added 10 kills and senior setter Pihanakealoha Kea posted 52 assists.
Buyuan, a former two-time Big Island Interscholastic Federation player of the year, added a match-high 20 digs as she eases into her first season as the Sea Warriors’ starting libero. She was greeted by plenty of familiar faces at UHH Gym, including her former coach at Waiakea, Ecko Osorio, who was one of the match’s referees.
“When it’s against Hilo, it’s always going to be more personal,” the junior said, “but it also pushed me to perform better.
“It’s always hard on the road. We didn’t care about (UHH’s) record. This will set the pace for our season.”
UHH, meanwhile, has two chances to avoid an 0-9 homestand, and the best opportunity would appear to be Monday against Dixie State (2-3). Unbeaten Grand Canyon (10-0) comes calling on Wednesday.
Firmly entrenched in what he had figured could be a rebuilding year after the graduation of Hillary Hurley, Reyes remains optimistic.
“I like my team,” he said. “They don’t give up and they keep playing. They don’t always make the play but they compete. I can’t ask for more that that.”
• Hawaiii Pacific 5, UHH 1: The Vulcans (0-2) dropped a nonconference match to the Sea Warriors, getting a goal from Waiakea graduate Ian Watanabe in the 90th minute. In two games, the Vulcans have scored one goal.
• HPU 3, UHH 0: The Vuls (2-2) were shut out for the second time in a nonconference match against the Sea Warriors.
“We had opportunites that were good looks but couldn’t capitalize,” UHH coach Unity Beddingfield said. “Overall the girls played very well. Now we’re game ready for our next game, which is against Chaminade (on Monday). It’s one day at a time.”
The University of Hawaii at Hilo finished in fifth place at the BYU- Invitational in Laie, Oahu. Nadia Ramirez was in 7th place with a time of 19 minutes, 53 seconds in the 5 kilometers.
Completing the team were Jordan Bledsoe (17th, 21:36), Keri Fujiwara (19th, 21:44), Justina Wood (26th, 24:35) and Hillary Ramos (29th, 26:45).