Thursday | December 14, 2017
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College volleyball: Fresno Pacific turns back Vulcans in four

It’s early but UH-Hilo is, so far, living up to other coaches’ expectations in the PacWest preseason poll. And that’s not a good thing.

The Vulcans, who were picked to finish 11th, have lost to teams picked ahead of them and beaten teams picked below them in the poll.

Fresno Pacific, selected to finish 10th or one spot ahead of the Vuls, pulled out a 25-20, 25-22, 22-25, 25-21 win on Saturday at UHH Gym, showing much better balanced efficiency.

UHH (4-6, 1-3 PacWest) has lost four of its last five. The Sunbirds (3-9, 2-2) snapped a two-match skid.

In nonconference matches, the Vuls swept Holy Names (14th and last in the poll) and lost to Chaminade (eighth) and Hawaii Pacific (sixth). They swept Academy of Art (13th) on Friday night in a PacWest match.

It’s also probably not a good thing when a libero is the standout player. And that was the case for the home team. Mina Grant had 22 digs and was nearly flawless as a serve-receiver passer, taking 27 attempts with just one ace surrendered for a .964 percentage.

UHH’s two outside hitters, Siera Green and Lucee Fitzgerald, had decent hitting stats: 15 kills and a .270 clip and 10 kills and .048, respectively, but struggled with three and four aces surrendered. Randi Hunter (10 kills, .348) was the most productive and didn’t take any serve-receive attempts.

The biggest stat of the match was digs: UHH had 55 while the Sunbirds compiled 67 with four players in double digits: Tiff Wong (14 digs), Christina Tran (12), Greta Dobenecker (12), and Gabriela Macedo (11).

“Unfortunately, they had four Mina Grants,” UHH coach Gene Krieger said. “We hit some good shots, but they kept finding a way to run down balls and kick it over the net.”

The Vuls had no answer against FPU outside hitter Caroline Bodziak (16 kills, .538) and middle blocker Madison Pierce (12 kills, .400), which finished with a team .255 hitting clip; UHH hit just .156.

Tran added nine kills. The Sunbird sophomore setter/hitter is something of a little hitting marvel. She’s listed at 5 feet 7 but kept tooling shots off UHH’s block.

In the 25-20 first set, UHH was its own worst enemy with 11 unforced errors, clanking several balls into the net. The attack produced 10 kills but hit just .027.

The Sunbirds were far more efficient with 11 kills on a .152 clip and just nine giveaway points (hitting, service, and ball-handling errors). The visitors closed the first set when a bullet serve to Green was shanked.

In the 25-22 second set, the Vuls found the floor much better with a .235 hitting clip, but the Sunbirds also hit a stellar .387 and shredded UHH’s block.

Through two games, UHH was defenseless against Bodziak, who had 10 kills with only one error on 16 attacks for a blistering .562 hitting percentage.

During the same span, Green led the way with eight kills and held a .316 hitting clip.

But she and Lucee Fitzgerald were targeted by FPU’s tough serves and each struggled. Green surrendered two aces on 13 serve-receive attempts for a .867 percentage, and Fitzgerald allowed three aces on only eight attempts for a .727 percentage.

Grant was UHH’s serve-receive salvation, though two sets, with no errors on 14 attempts. She had eight digs during that time.

Kylei Dewar finished off the Vuls in the second set with an easy slam when the block arrived late.

Perhaps, most frustrating for UHH was the late leads — 15-10 in Game 1 and 17-12 in Game 2 — that were coughed up.

After the 10-minute break, which featured UHH Hall of Famer Carla Carpenter Kabalis’ HI Intensity club team competing for swag, the Vuls took a 17-12 cushion.

This time, the Vulcans didn’t self-destruct, and Green was a catalyst during a four-point run, knocking down consecutive kills, for a 24-20 lead. Hunter put down set point.

In Game 4, UHH didn’t seem to have the same energy as FPU. The Vuls beat Academy of Pacific in three sets on Friday night. The visitors jumped to a 21-13 cushion and never looked back.

“It was emotional on Friday, and it’s more of a mental challenge to play back-to-back,” Krieger said. “I was afraid we wouldn’t have the same energy, not that crowd didn’t try to help us. We just couldn’t match Friday’s energy level.”

 

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