By MATT GERHART
Tribune-Herald sports writer
University of Hawaii at Hilo volleyball coach Tino Reyes measures success this season in terms of improvement, not wins.
But the two don’t necessarily have to be mutually exclusive.
Featuring balance and poise Monday night at UHH Gym, the Vulcans cleaned up their first-set miscues and the end game was a 15-25, 25-21, 25-16, 25-20 victory against Fresno Pacific at UHH Gym.
The best news for UHH was that it’s hitting stars again came in threes. Marley Strand-Nicolaisen was pulled early but returned to finish with 18 kills and 10 digs, Callie Aberle smacked 16 kills and Kyndra Trevino-Scott added 15.
“I think we’re starting to see Callie hit the ball high and deep like we asked her to,” Reyes said. “I saw Callie hit the ball off the blocks that she would never have done before. There were some balls that normally she would get stuffed because she would try to find the floor and hit the ball down at the net, and it would come back to us.”
UHH (8-11, 3-11 Pacific West Conference) owns its first back-to-back victories since it opened the season by winning five straight. The last match during a busy stretch that has the Vulcans playing four home games in seven days — Reyes compared it to the grind that an NBA might face — is at 7 p.m. Wednesday against Notre Dame de Namur.
Might his young team finally be starting to find its way?
“You would think they’d learn from their success,” Reyes said. “Whatever got them here they would try to repeat.”
UHH withstood Rupia Inck’s 22 kills, including 10 in the third set, as the Sunbirds (11-9, 6-7) hit just .157 to head home 1-3 on their Hawaii road trip.
Reyes credited assistant Randy Nako with installing a plan to limit Inck, who took 56 swings and hit .232, more than 50 percentage points below her average.
“Randy had the block in the right spot,” Reyes said. “They understood what he was saying. Unlike me, they don’t (always) understand what I’m saying.”
The Vulcans attacked at a .227 percentage, and middle blocker Trevino-Scott (.289), and outside hitters Aberle (.268) and Strand-Nicolaisen (.231) each cleared .200 to combine for all but five of their team’s 54 kills. Setter Sienna Davis led the way with 15 digs, Kelia Parrilla added 12 and Kahealani Vento-Rowe had 10.
Tied 10-10 in the fourth set, neither team could pull away by more than one until the scoreboard read 19-19, then two kills by Aberle spurred a game-ending 6-1 run.
Perhaps a nod to their improvement, the Vulcans were able to avenge a road loss from earlier this season, just like in their win Saturday against Academy of Art.
“I think the kids are a lot more confident,” Reyes said. “I think they realize that they can play with this team, and if they eliminate their errors then they can have some success.”
Of course, Reyes was quick to point out that UHH hasn’t beaten anybody on the road this season, carrying a 0-6 record
On that note, before they hit the road for a season-ending four-match road trip, the Vuls have a golden opportunity to again flirt with .500 in matches against the cellar-dwellers of the Pac West. The Argonauts are (5-17, 2-11) ninth while UHH hosts last-place Holy Names (1-22, 1-12) at 3 p.m. Sunday.
Then again, the coach isn’t counting wins and losses.
“We talk about getting better,” Reyes said. “And if we do the right things, if we play hard and we play smart, we’ll like the result.
“If we keep moving forward, we’re going to be a nice team.”