By MATT GERHART
Tribune-Herald sports writer
Grand Canyon’s hitters all took turns and shared the wealth, but there was one common theme for all of them: ruthless efficiency.
The Antelopes looked every bit the No. 15 Division II college volleyball team in the country Wednesday night, defeating the University of Hawaii at Hilo 26-24, 25-19, 25-12 at UHH Gym.
Grand Canyon hit .336 and three players reached double figures in kills, putting the Vulcans (1-8, 1-2 Pacific West Conference) under siege all match. They were swept for the third time this season.
“They’re just so steady, they’ve got good size, the setter is good,” UHH coach Tino Reyes said. “The have a plethora of weapons. We don’t have the firepower that they do.”
UHH freshman outside hitter Bria Morgan posted a match-high 15 kills, but the Vulcans couldn’t contend with the size, experience or balance of Grand Canyon (11-1, 1-1).
Hayleigh Friemoth, a 5-foot-10 sophomore outside hitter, smacked 12 kills and hit a robust .455; 6-0 senior hitter Janae Giles went for 11/.360; and 6-0 junior middle blocker Kristen Johannsen added 10 kills on .286 hitting. In all, six players reached five kills and hit above. 200, and none needed more than 25 swings to get there.
Morgan, meanwhile, took 52 swings in leading UHH in kills for the eighth time this season, hitting .154 with 11 digs.
“We felt offensively we had the advantage coming into the match,” Grand Canyon coach Kris Naber said. “We started out a little bit slow, but ended a little bit better. But overall our game was consistent and we kept it at a high level.”
The Antelopes began a four-match Hawaii road trip having lost only nine sets this season. However, they were swept by Fresno Pacific in their PacWest opener, a loss that ended a 24-match regular-season winning streak. UHH swept Grand Canyon twice last season on consecutive nights in Phoenix powered by a combined 67 kills from then-senior Hillary Hurley.
Naber admitted it was “so nice” not to see Hurley on the other side of the net when she sat down on the bench to start Wednesday’s match. Her view would only get better, but not before UHH rallied gamely in the first set despite .436 hitting from the ‘Lopes.
Kills by Morgan and Patty Snel along with an Autumn Chong ace helped stave off four game points to forge a 24-24 tie. But as Reyes has harped on this season, the young Vulcans are able to get to crucial points, but they have a hard time winning them. In this case, Friemoth and Giles delivered to save Grand Canyon.
“Winning is a habit and losing is a habit,” Naber said of winning big points. “Learning how to finish is a habit. The more you do it, the more comfortable you get.”
Grand Canyon didn’t face much adversity after that. It never trailed after breaking a 2-2 tie in Game 2, and it used a six-point spurt to pull away from a 5-5 tie in the third set.
Senior Grand Canyon setter Kristen Preach had 39 assists to go along with five kills on .400 hitting, and 6-1 junior blocker Lanie Muys and 6-3 senior hitter Sydney McDowell each added six kills.
The Vulcans were coming off their first win of the season against Dixie State, and like many matches their starting lineup included four freshmen. Snel had eight kills and freshman setter Jolie Au registered 25 assists, but the Vuls took nine more swings then Grand Canyon yet finished with 20 fewer kills and hit .109.
“We’ve got a lot of inexperienced players and when we don’t do the assignments it just compounds the problem,” Reyes said. “For us to be able to compete, we’ve got to be real precise and do our assignments all the time.”
A nine-match season-opening homestand in their rear-view mirror, the Vulcans hit the road Monday in Oakland against Holy Names for the first of five matches in California.