ST. GEORGE – The Dixie State volleyball team whittled the PacWest list of unbeatens from three to two Monday nightwith a four-set win over previously unbeaten Hawaii-Hilo.
That leaves the conference with the preseason favorite Cal Baptist and defending champion Dixie State as the last two undefeated teams tied atop the standings at 4-0.
In the 25-18, 21-25, 25-22, 25-22 match, the Lady Vulcans did not go down without a fight. After DSU cruised to an opening set win 25-17, UH-H battled back to tie the match with a 25-21 win in the second.
Set one was tied 4-4 before a DSU sideout. Two straight service aces from Megan Huddleston started a ‘Blazer 8-1 run. DSU was never threatened as they maintained a 6-8 point advantage for the rest of the set.
In set two, DSU jumped out to a 7-4 advantage behind three kills from Delayne Daniel.
“(UH-H) is a much improved team,” said Dixie State head coach Robyn Felder. “They played incredible defense. They read our attacks and kept the ball in play.”
Hawaii-Hilo finished with a losing record in conference play last year and was picked to finish 10th in the preseason PacWest poll this year. But the Vulcans started conference play with wins over perennial contenders BYU-Hawaii and Hawaii Pacific.
After the intermission, DSU came back with a tight win in set three, 25-22. The game was tied at 8-8 and the teams split the next 10 points to a 13-13 tie. Then UH-H edged forward 1-2 points at a time till they eventually led by five, 23-18, before closing out the set and evening the match.
After intermission it was again DSU that jumped out early 7-3. The lead grew to 12-7 behind the service of Kailey Frei. The ‘Blazers again led by five on Lindsay Garrett’s kill 16-11.
The Vulcans would eat into the lead but not quite pull even. They trailed 22-21 before DSU would close out the set on a 3-1 run.
The final set saw neither team lead by more than two points until late. UH-H took a three-point lead at 20-17, then 21-18 before Felder called timeout.
“I told them we were not going to play it safe,” said Felder. “I told them to play like we normally do, to play with our normal aggression. I did not want us to let up, even though we had fallen behind.”
The result was a closing 7-1 run to finish the match. Daniel and Garrett each had kills in the closing run.
“We had a great passing game tonight,” said Frei. “Our attackers placed the ball better in the later sets. They are good at making those adjustments against good defensive teams we face.”
Individually for Dixie State, Daniel and Taylor Duryea led with 16 and 11 kills, respectively. Frei dished out 38 assists. Brette Anderson had six blocks. Libero Sidney Brandon had 26 digs. Huddleston and Jaclyn Condie also had double-digit digs with 11 and 10, respectively.
The ‘Blazers improve to 7-4 overall while UH-H falls to 4-4 overall and 2-1 in the PacWest. Dixie State will play a non-conference match against Westminster on Wednesday night in Salt Lake City before returning home to face conference foe Chaminade Saturday night. The Silverswords beat Dixie State in a hotly-contested, five-set match at Dixie State last year. DSU reciprocated with a three-set sweep later in the season at Chaminade.
“We are the defending champions and currently leading the conference with Cal-Baptist,” Frei said. “We know we have targets on our backs. Conference teams will bring their best against us. We play well with that pressure.”
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