Thursday | December 14, 2017
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College volleyball: No. 2 Cal Baptist breezes past Vuls in sweep

The UH-Hilo volleyball team got a good look at what perfection looks like after No. 2 Cal Baptist brought a broom to the gym and made quick work of the overwhelmed Vulcans.

The Lancers blitzed the Vulcans 25-12, 25-16, 25-15 on Friday night at UHH gym, where the hometown fans were treated to one hour and 26 minutes of lopsided action.

Cal Baptist (26-0, 18-0 PacWest) wasn’t always perfect but close to it, posting a .392 hitting clip and shackling UHH to a .065 hitting percentage.

Evelin Solyomvari knocked down nine kills and hit .316, Kiley Davis had five kills and hit .300, and Randi Hunter made her first appearance in a month and added five kills and hit .273 to lead UHH (8-17, 5-3 PacWest), which now has a 10-match losing skid.

The rest of the Vuls ate up too many swings and made too many errors. UHH had just 28 kills and 22 hitting errors, not a good disparity at all. Cal Baptist had 38 kills and only seven hitting miscues.

Madison Witt pounded 12 kills and hit .579, her twin sister McKenna Witt had six kills and hit .333 to lead the Lancers, who already wrapped up the PacWest title and qualified for the NCAA Division II tournament.

“Our last three matches were against Azusa Pacific, Concordia, and Cal Baptist. They’re going to the NCAA tournament, and those are teams we need to emulate,” UHH coach Gene Krieger. “I heard Doc Rivers (the Los Angeles Clippers coach) say that he was happy with his team’s effort, hustle, and teamwork but not the results. I thought that was a good quote, and we did as well as we could.”

Asked what it’ll take for UHH to reach Cal Baptist’s level someday, Krieger looked at the Lancers’ ability to recruit.

“They have three girls with Division I experience,” said Krieger, who noted the Witt twins were at Arizona and Taylor Brubaker (who didn’t play) was at Fresno State. “It’ll take luck and contacts. Maybe a Rainbow Wahine doesn’t get enough playing time and comes here.”

The biggest difference is that the Lancers don’t beat themselves. The 5-10 Witt twins have a good habit of hitting balls into the court. They’re sort of built like former UHH standout Marley Strand-Nicolaisen, tall and lanky and almost as explosive.

The Witt twins are college’s version of hired guns. They played beach volleyball for the Wildcats, graduated and arrived at Cal Baptist to play our their final year of eligibility.

The title of main gun belongs to Lauren Hackett, a 6-2 senior outside hitter, who was an All-American second-team pick last year. She’s a three-time All-PacWest first-team selection and likely a four-timer.

Maybe Hackett forgot to eat her bowl of Wheaties because she didn’t have an All-American performance. She had eight kills and hit .182. Even All-Americans aren’t always perfect.

In Game 1, Katrina Johnson and Davis combined to block Hackett. The hometown crowd got a good cheer. But on Cal Baptist’s next point for a 12-8 lead, Hackett dropped a nice tip shot, showing her ability to change her hitting tempo.

It’s no wonder the Lancers are perfect. They lead the PacWest in a majority of all-important categories, such as hitting percentage, opponent hitting percentage, assists, kills, opponent kills, and opponent service aces.

The Vulcans are near the bottom or in the second half in the same categories.

“It’s a process, but we’re getting there,” Krieger said.

Meanwhile, Cal Baptist setter Sydney Kralj is 5-8 and living proof height isn’t a requirement to be an All-American. She was an All-American honorable mention, an All-PacWest first-team pick, and the conference’s setter of the year last season.

She, too, isn’t perfect.

In Game 2, a ball went through her hands for a Vulcan point, which trimmed Cal Baptist’s lead to 13-10. Kralj may not be perfect, but she was pretty impressive giving her hitters clean attacks and making UHH’s block run from pin to pin.

Next season, the Lancers will move to Division I and join the Western Athletic Conference, the same league Hawaii ditched in 2011.

The Warrior football team is in the Mountain West Conference, along with the old WAC members, while the rest of UH’s sports are in the Big West.

Longtime diehard UH fans wouldn’t recognize any of the teams in the WAC now. New Mexico State won the WAC volleyball title last year and is in first place this year.

It’ll be interesting how the Lancers fare next season because they lose their top players: Hackett, the Witt twins, and Kralj. It may be that perfection only lasts so long.

On Saturday against Hawaii Pacific, it’s senior night, and UHH will honor Siera Green, Trixie Croad, and Taylor Madrid.

 

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