Volleyball Vulcans End Losing Skid in Five-Set Thriller
Another defeat was looking the University of Hawai`i at Hilo women’s volleyball team right in the face Wednesday night.
The Vulcans trailed Azusa Pacific University two sets to one and trailed early in the fourth and fifth set, but found a way to fight through and win the five-set PacWest Conference marathon.
Set scores were 19-25, 26-24, 17-25, 25-18, 16-14.
“It’s pretty surreal right now. I’m almost speechless,” said UH-Hilo head coach Tino Reyes after the match. “The girls kinda grew up tonight a little bit. I can’t believe that we pulled it out. We’ve had five-set matches on the road and we were leading in some of them and it turned. In this one here, it turned early, and somehow they figured out a way to do it. Those are good things for us.”
UH-Hilo (6-9 overall, 1-9 PacWest) fell behind early in each of the first two sets. While the Vulcans couldn’t recover in the first, they did in the second thanks to a 7-0 scoring run that put them ahead 13-10. Allee Johnson, who finished with 18 kills for the match, had two kills in that stretch.
Azusa Pacific (12-6, 5-4) fought off three set points in the second. Marley Strand-Nicolaisen misfired her serve at 24-21, Johnson was blocked by Christy Cain and Hayley Beetstra on the next point, and an ace by defensive specialist Cori Esparza evened the score at 24. A pair of kills, however, by Kyndra Trevino-Scott and Johnson gave the Vulcans the set.
The Vulcans once again trailed, this time by as much as three points, early in the fourth set. Reyes let his team play through it instead of using a timeout, and his team responded with a 5-0 run, guided by two Kelia Parilla service aces to take a 13-10 lead.
Later in the fourth, Reyes subbed Shelby Harguess into the front row, replacing Abbey Wade, and immediately got results. Her solo block on Cain, who stands at 6-foot-4, gave the Vulcans a 19-14 lead in the set and turned the momentum meter all the way in the home team’s favor.
“Abbey wasn’t getting her hands on the ball and so we said, maybe if we put a bigger girl in front of her (Cain), something would happen,” Reyes explained. “That’s all we did, and Shelby did the rest.”
The Vulcans scored the first three points of the fifth set and seemed to have everything in control until APU rattled off the next five points to take the lead. The Cougars had an 11-6 lead in the final frame and also held match point three times at 14-11. Once again, Reyes’ squad found a way to rally.
Trevino-Scott picked up one of her seven fifth set kills to fight off the first match point. Parilla, the lone senior on the squad, went back to serve with her team still down. “Kelia went back and served a bunch and those really helped us. It put them out of system,” Reyes explained. “We tied the game with Kelia back there and we got the go ahead point. We were just fortunate.”
After APU’s Mattie Shelford missed an attack long to allow UH-Hilo to get within a point, Parrilla’s third service ace of the night tied the final set at 14. Strand-Nicolaisen recorded her nineteenth kill to give the Vulcans match point. Then, the Cougars went back to Shelford on the left side. Waiting for her at the net was Trevino-Scott and Sienna Davis, who combined for the match-winning rejection.
Shelford led APU with 24 kills. Cain followed with an efficient performance out of the middle, recording 16 kills and only three errors. Lauren Edwards added 12 kills with no errors for the Cougars, who hit .327 in the loss.
When asked about what this means for his team going forward, Reyes expressed caution. “I’ll let you know on that when we play Saturday. We’ll see if we can duplicate what we did in terms of things we needed to do.”
Saturday’s opponent is Point Loma Nazarene, who currently sits at the top of the PacWest with a 10-0 conference mark and 16-3 overall record. The Sea Lions visit BYU-Hawai`i Friday night before traveling to Hilo.
Floor conditions a problem at UH-Hilo Gymnasium
Both teams dealt with a slippery floor at the UH-Hilo Gymnasium, caused by moisture from rainy conditions. It’s the same problem that forced UH-Hilo and APU to cancel basketball games last February after several Cougars were hurt less than 10 minutes into the women’s basketball match-up.
Before the match, APU volleyball coach Chris Keife said that the floor was “pretty bad” and said that his biggest concern for the match was that his players stayed safe. While his team was warming up before the match, the veteran head coach was on his hands and knees with a towel wiping the slick floor down to protect his players.
Floor dryers and fans were blowing on the floor before and during the match and floor wipers were constantly asked to wipe up the floor after players fell. Players on both teams had issues with footing, especially when quick reactions were necessary, but no injuries were suffered, allowing officials to let the players continue to play.
Azusa Pacific 25 24 25 18 14 – 2
Hawai`i Hilo 19 26 17 25 16 – 3