Thursday | December 14, 2017
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College volleyball: Vulcans transfer Davis finds middle ground

It’s possible that the first-year UH-Hilo volleyball players all have their stories straight, but it’s more likely they all just genuinely enjoy their new home.

It’s becoming a trend. Ask a Vulcans transfer for the inside scoop, about life on or off the court, and the word is they’re happy in Hilo.

Kiley Davis is no different.

“It’s awesome,” said the junior middle, formerly of Scottsdale (Ariz.) CC. “You get more of a fan base and the community itself, everyone is supportive. Me personally, I feed of that energy.

“We want to make it as best and fun as we can with our play, and (put) on a show when they come out and watch us and give them a really good game.”

Fresh – in theory, at least – after a draining yet successful road trip, the next showtimes at home are (note the funky times) 5:30 p.m. Friday against Dominican and 7:30 p.m. Saturday against Chaminade in a pair Pacific West Conference rematches against teams the Vulcans (5-5 PacWest, 8-9) already have faced on the road.

First-year coach Gene Krieger joked in the preseason that he tapped Scottsdale CC to recruit setter Bausi Sauni, who happened to bring Davis with her. But the 6-foot middle blocker has begun to flourish in her own right, ranking second in PacWest in blocks, averaging 1.23 per set.

“I feel like I’ve been very quick at the net, and I’m very good at defense,” said Davis, a middle blocker since her high school days. “I prefer blocking and defense and protecting my team. I like playing middle, because it’s quicker.

“My job mostly is to draw the other blocks to keep with me so we can shoot it out to the outsides, and I feel like I’m very vocal and good about trying to draw the blocks.”

But she can hit, too, and the Vuls will need more production offensively as they continue to press on without third-leading hitter Lucee Fitzgerald, who is still on crutches and has missed three matches and counting since suffering an injury in a win Oct. 9 at Notre Dame de Namur.

“She’s going to be asked to do a lot more this weekend,” Krieger said of Davis.

Davis is hitting .226, second-best on the team behind fellow middle Ashton Jesse (.231), and after what she called an early “rough patch,” Davis has notched at least five kills in six of her past seven matches.

It’s not a coincidence, Krieger said, that his middles are holding their own offensively.

“I think coaches tend to coach what they played or are comfortable with,” he said. “I’ve always been middle blocker-attentive. I played middle, my wife played middle.

“I maybe understand and harp on the nuances more than most, so my middles tend to be very successful because we do spend so much time and effort on little things that make them more successful in blocking and hitting and being part of the offense.”

Last time out against Dominican (4-5, 5-12) on Oct. 8, the Vulcans enjoyed a watershed moment, eking out a victory in their first five-set match of the season. Behind a near double-double (12 kills, nine blocks) from Davis, UHH fought off four-match points and used the triumph as springboard take three of four conference matches in Northern California.

“We’re starting to kind of keep people on their toes and on the edge of their seat,” Davis said. “”When it gets close, we’ve gone out of it, but we ended up winning those really tough matches.”

Because of it, Krieger sees his team developing faith in the process and confidence in each other.

“The only time it happens is when you go through a fire and survive with each other,” he said. “Then your faith in each other becomes confidence because you have been through a battle.”

Chaminade started 2-0 in PacWest play but enters the weekend on a six-match losing streak.

Last time out against the Silverswords (4-6 and 9-9 heading into a home match Friday against Hawaii Pacific), UHH fell in four sets in a match that Davis would just as soon forget.

“It was a sort of like we weren’t really there,” she said. “I wasn’t a big help in that match. It’s definitely going to be a whole different ball game.”

A victory against the Silverswords would propel the Vulcans up another rung on the figurative ladder that Krieger uses to gauge progress. From beating a team they weren’t supposed to beat to compiling a three-game winning streak, the next goal is to beat a team that previously beat them.

In time, Davis see’s the ladder rising high.

Sky-high.

“As coach says, it’s a two-year plan,” she said. “I feel like he’s doing a really good job of keeping us together. All the girls have been together for a short amount of time compared to other teams, who have been playing for years.

“I feel like we can still push forward and by next year I feel like we’ll get into nationals.”

Game notes: Friday is staff/faculty appreciation night. All current UH-Hilo faculty and staff will be admitted free and be given a free hot dog and soda. … Saturday is Hall of Fame night. In between Games 2-3, the 2017 class will be honored –the 1976-77 men’s basketball team and Distinguished Supporter Dennis Miyashiro.

 

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