By MATT GERHART
Tribune-Herald sports writer
As the University of Hawaii at Hilo went through its pregame soccer drills, senior Lauren Grace-Finley walked over to the public-address announcer with a musical request: pump up the volume.
Blaring music ensued as thunder rolled from ominous skies. Then the Lady Vulcans put forth their own explosion.
The entire West Region can hear them now.
UHH added an offensive charge to its ever-suffocating defense Saturday to dominate Holy Names 4-0 at its campus, bolstering its postseason hopes.
“We don’t control our own destiny, but winning sure does help,” director of soccer Lance Thompson said.
The Vulcans (9-3-2, 6-4-1 Pacific West Conference) have allowed only one goal in going 5-0-1 in their last six matches to rise to No. 5 in the West rankings. Six teams will earn spots to the regional, leaving UHH firmly in the mix for an at-large bid with two matches, each at home, remaining this season.
The threat of lightening held off in the first half, but there was something else in the soggy air at UHH baseball field — the hint of a playoff atmosphere. The Vulcans were playing their second match since learning they were in the thick of the postseason mix.
“We’ve been winning and you know that you have the scores, but to actually hear that this program is (ranked), it really meant a lot to us,” said junior Kassandra Talamantez, who assisted on two scores.
“For me, all matches are must-win. I don’t feel pressure. I feel we need to prove ourselves, because this is what we’re here to do.”
Kristine Pasek and Analysa Rodriguez scored in the first half, and McKenna Hughes and Danalynne Llacuna found the back of the net in the second half as UHH equaled its season-high with four goals.
Freshman goalkeeper Jenna Hufford tallied her eighth shutout of the season to extend one of the best defensive stretches in program history. In last 564-plus minutes of soccer, Hufford and the backline of Talamantez, Llacuna, Taylor Wright and Alexandra Marin have helped hold opponents to only one score.
“Our defense was amazing,” said Hufford, who finished with three saves. “Playing with them makes it a lot easier on me.”
Hufford was the only recruit that Thompson had time to bring in after he was hired midway through the summer to take over a program known mostly for losing and volatility. Hufford, from Shingle Springs, Calif., planned to attend Cal Poly before she got a call from Thompson, and she didn’t arrive at UHH until the week that classes were to start.
“I wasn’t expecting (us) to be this good,” Hufford said. “It’s been crazy that we’re doing so well.”
At times against the Hawks (4-9, 0-7), UHH’s offense was its best defense. Hufford didn’t touch the ball until the final minute of the first half, and she wasn’t called on to make a save until the 60th minute, with UHH already ahead 2-0.
But the Vulcans also got some of their best offense from their defense.
“The backline played a complete game from start to finish,” Thompson said. “Jenna has done a great job for us, and the four in front of her and the three in front of them have been workhorses.”
After a quiet opening 25 minutes, UHH, which held a 10-4 advantage in shots, took control.
Talamentez set up two goals with corner kicks. In the 27th minute, her ball skipped through to the far side, where Pasek was waiting from about 8 yards out for her team-high fourth goal of the season and third in four matches.
Talamentez and Abcde Zoller assisted as Hughes gave UHH a 3-0 lead in the 68th minute.
“It doesn’t matter what position you’re at,” Talamentez said. “Goals can come from everywhere. Dayna wanted it so bad.”
Llacuna provided the perfect finishing touch, taking a pass from Dakota Baze and blasting a rocket from about 45 about yards out for the junior’s first career goal.
“When I kicked it, it just felt like it was going to go in,” she said.
Rodriguez’s third goal of year came in the 32nd minute after the Lindsey Poulsen set her up with a nifty pass.
UHH finished up with Academy of Art on Thursday and BYU-Hawaii on Nov. 9.
Holy Names men 2, UHH 1: Jaime Phillips goal in the final minute ended the Vulcans’ modest two-match winning streak.
Anthony Novella had tied the match midway through the second half for UHH (5-7-1, 3-6-1) off an assist from Justin Szymkowiak.
Scorless at halftime Jessi Guerrero put Holy Names (4-7-2, 3-4) in front in the 55th minute.
The Hawks were outshot 9-7.