Point Loma Nazarene Defeats UHH in Hawai`i Debut
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by Josh Pacheco
The Sea Lions of Point Loma Nazarene University looked right at home in their program’s first ever match in the 50th state, defeating the University of Hawaii at Hilo in straight sets Monday before a small crowd of 99 fans on the UH Hilo campus.
Set scores were 25-23, 25-20, and 25-22.
The Sea Lions are a first-year member of the Pacific West Conference. They will travel to Hawai`i every other year as part of the conference’s unbalanced schedule. Several of their players, including freshman standout Kelli LeClair and first-year reserve Cayleen Harty, had never been to the islands before.
Once the opening serve of the match started, however, all thoughts of the trip to Akaka Falls or experience of eating local food were put on the side, as LeClair and fellow freshman Brianna Vieth led a solid attack that hit .252 on the evening.
“Point Loma’s a nice team,” said a disappointed head coach Tino Reyes. “They handle the ball really well and we just couldn’t get them out of their system serving wise and they just played better than we did.”
In the first set, UH Hilo held a slim 6-5 lead before watching the Sea Lions rattle off six points in a row to take an 11-6 advantage. The Vulcans would tie the match twice near the halfway point of the set, but could not regain an advantage toward the end of the set and fell by two.
The Vulcans played from behind for much of the second set as well, but was within striking distance despite falling down by as much as six points at 17-11. They fought back to get within two at 19-21 late in the frame, but a trio of attack errors allowed Point Loma Nazarene to push to a 2-0 set lead.
UH Hilo (4-11, 4-5 PacWest) stumbled out of the locker room to start the third set as they were down 8-3 early. For the first time, however, the Sea Lions began to stumble with several passing errors from setter Natalie Hamill and the Vulcans would even the set at 11 each. They led by as much as two before watching PLNU even the set several times. The Sea Lions eventually took back the lead for good at 22-21 and would not look back.
“I didn’t like what I saw. We didn’t play so good. We didn’t compete well enough,” said Reyes. “Point Loma won the serve-and-pass game and didn’t get them out of system, so they ran their offense at well and we, on the other hand, struggled.”
Bria Morgan led UH Hilo with 21 kills while Patty Snel followed with 10 kills, combining for 31 of the team’s 33 winners. However, the middle continues to be a weak point, as sophomore Olivia Lane contributed only one kill in four swings. Abbey Wade had the team’s other kill, but was subbed out several teams for freshman Cassidy Granado.
“We’ve got some problems with our middle blocking situation, and that’s why Cassidy (Granado) played. I’m not going to play somebody who’s not going to do their assignments,” explained Reyes. “We didn’t do any worse with Cassidy in than we did with Abby.”
The home slate gets tougher on Wednesday when the Vulcans host conference-unbeaten Cal Baptist at 7:00 p.m. The Lancers are led by Ingrid Carmona, the PacWest player of the week, who averaged 4.38 kills per set last week. That match will be broadcast on ESPN Radio and ESPNHawaii.com