By MATT GERHART
Tribune-Herald sports writer
It’s volleyball season hasn’t always gone according to plan, but now the University of Hawaii at Hilo has a blueprint.
Coach Tino Reyes can pop in a tape of Saturday night’s victory against Academy of Art and say: duplicate this.
“This was what I envisioned for this team, the way we played tonight,” Tino Reyes said after the Vulcans won 25-18, 26-28, 25-23, 25-21 at UHH Gym. “I think if we play like that, we’ll be in every match. Henceforth, I’m hoping we’re going to play this way.”
The key was better balance.
Freshmen Kyndra Trevino-Scott and Marley Strand-Nicolaisen each put down 17 kills, but Reyes’ favorite numbers were the ones delivered by Callie Aberle. The athletic junior provided UHH with the third hitting option it so desperately needs, finishing with 15 kills and 16 digs.
“When we don’t have three hitters, we struggle,” Reyes said. “We’ll take (Aberle’s) performance every time.”
During a five-set loss to Dixie State on Thursday night, Strand-Nicolaisen took a career-high 98 swings. As a result, Reyes said the team’s leading hitter was off-limits during Friday’s practice.
UHH (7-10, 2-10 Pacific West Conference) lightened her workload again on Saturday night. She took 58 swings and hit .138, while Aberle was nearly as busy with only four errors on 43 attacks for a .256 attack percentage, almost 100 points better than her season average. At middle blocker, Trevino-Scott was set 34 times and hit .412. Freshman Allee Johnson needed only 11 swings to net six kills.
“I think when we work together, it makes everything flow,” Aberle said. “When one girl is on, the next girl is and the next girl is on.”
While Reyes made over this year’s team primarily with freshmen, Aberle is a junior college transfer from Reno, Nev.
“It’s hard to click immediately, but it’s gotten better as the games progress,” she said.
The Vulcans continue their eight-match homestand at 7 p.m. Monday against Fresno Pacific (11-8, 6-6). The Sunbirds swept the Vuls on Oct. 2 in Fresno, Calif.
In beating the Urban Nights (9-14, 5-10) on Saturday night, UHH avenged a four-set loss earlier this season in San Francisco.
The match featured several long, exciting rallies. In the fourth set, Johnson took out three chairs on the UHH bench trying to save a point.
“Everyone was in for every ball,” Aberle said. “We were not going to let the ball touch the ground.”
Academy of Art held a 9-7 lead, but UHH forced a 10-10 tie and set up one of the points of the night, a back-and-forth exchange that Aberle finally ended with a kill.
The Vuls never lost their lead, and two kills by Johnson ended it.
“I think a win sets us up for another one, it boosts everybody’s confidence,” Aberle said. “They love the feeling of winning. I think we are in for another one soon.”