By MATT GERHART
Tribune-Herald sports writer
A missed pass here, a poor serve-receive there. Little deficiencies like those put the University of Hawaii at Hilo volleyball team in a hole Monday night. Even when the Vulcans improved in those areas, Point Loma’s block never gave them a chance to start to dig their way out.
Vuls coach Tino Reyes pointed at two telling stat lines after the Sea Lions’ 25-23, 25-20, 25-22 victory at UHH Gym.
“After the second set they had seven service aces. We lose by two and we lose by five. There we go, there’s the game right there,” he said. “The last game, here’s an interesting stat: eight (kills), eight (errors) … zero (hitting percentage). But we’re in the match because we served a little bit better and passed a little bit better in that game.”
It still wasn’t enough for UHH (4-11, 4-5 Pacific West Conference), not with the way league newcomer Point Loma made its presence felt at the net. Outside hitter Delaney McCraney posted 10 kills and hit .444, and McKensey Wise (.467) finished with eight kills and only one error to go along with four block assists as the Sea Lions (6-9, 2-4) snapped a three-match losing streak.
Rebuilding UHH was coming off a 3-2 mainland road trip, and Reyes was most encouraged by the way his team played point-for-point at times Saturday before losing in a sweep at co-PacWest-leading Fresno Pacific.
“We played well (Saturday),” he said, “and if we would have played well (Monday) we had a chance to win.”
After losing to a team that entered tied for 12th near the bottom of the conference, the Vulcans have to regroup before continuing their three-match homestand at 7 p.m. Wednesday against Cal Baptist, the other PacWest co-leader.
Particularly pleasing to coach Sarah Guston was the way Point Loma defended against Bria Morgan. The UHH freshman finished with 21 kills, but she took 61 swings — 29 more than any player on either team — and she made 12 attack errors. Seven of those errors came in the third set as Point Loma’s blockers dug in.
That’s been a point of emphasis for the Sea Lions of San Diego.
“I feel like we did a pretty good job defending her,” Guston said. “She still had her share of kills. She attacks the block, and we’ve been struggling playing balls off the block. I thought we did a much better job of that and limiting her to not take over the match.”
The Sea Lions finished with 7.5 blocks, four in the third set.
Game 3 featured eight ties, the last of which came after a kill by the Vulcans’ Patty Snel evened things at 21-21. After a Morgan hitting error, she tried to attack again but was blocked by Wise and setter Natalie Hamill (four block assists). Morgan and Point Loma outside hitter Kelli LeClair traded kills, then LeClair’s block ended a deciding set that Reyes thought his team let get away.
“That game was for us to take if we wanted it,” he said, “and they wanted it more than we did. We just didn’t perform, but maybe that had a little to do with the other team.”
Snel (.345) added 10 kills and didn’t make an error on her 29 swings to go along with 19 digs. Morgan added 11 digs, but UHH’s attack was virtually nonexistent beyond those two outside hitters. Middle blockers Abbey Wade and Olivia Lane each had a kill, but that was it for the Vulcans, who hit .136. Still going through some up and downs as a full-time setter, freshman Jolie Au had 27 assists.
Point Loma got contributions from all of it starters in overcoming 10 service errors. Freshman Brian Vieth led the way with 13 kills, LeClair compiled 10 kills and 11 digs, Hamill also had 37 assists, libero Nicole Eiler compiled a match-high 22 digs and middle blocker Jeana Holman added two block assists.
“They just handled the ball a lot better than we did,” Reyes said. “They served better than we did and they passed better than we did. That made the difference. They could run their offense at will.”