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HPU volleyball: Brakling tames Mustangs

by Chuck Cordill, Assoc. Sports editor

Mustangs are wild creatures by nature. Ornery, unpredictable, free-spirited. They say that in order to tame a wild horse, you need to break it, harness its will, and let it know who’s in charge. HPU Sea Warrior Flavia Brakling is so good at it that somebody should hand her a cowboy hat and spurs. Yee-Haw.

Brakling, a 6-foot outside hitter from Sao Paulo, Brazil, hammered a career high 33 kills and led her team with 14 digs Oct. 4, as the HPU Lady Sea Warriors volleyball team out-lasted the Western New Mexico University Mustangs, 28-30, 28-30, 30-15, 30-26, 15-5 in a Pacific West Conference match at the James C. Castle Gym at St. Andrew’s Priory School in downtown Honolulu.

HPU, ranked 14th nationally in NCAA II women’s volleyball improved its record to 1-2 overall and 3-0 in the PacWest. WNMU fell to 8-10 and 0-3 in conference play.

“ Our girls played their hearts out tonight,” said WNMU Head Coach Jim Callender. “Just as we did when HPU visited us on their road trip. “But when we tried to make a run, Brakling just took over. She was tremendous.”

Brakling leads the Lady Sea Warriors with 207 kills, averaging 4.40 per game. And she leads the team in digs with 115, for a 2.45 per game average.

Early in the match it looked as if the Mustangs had found the ingredients for an upset. They had five Hawai‘i players, all with friends and family cheering in the stands. With the energy of a “homecoming,” WNMU seemed to negate HPU’s home-court advantage. And HPU didn’t help, given its early tendency to shoot itself in the foot with errors, especially at the service line. In all, HPU committed 21 service errors, almost half as many as the 12 Mustang miscues.

“ They were driving me nuts. I thought I would have an aneurism,” said Head Coach Tita Ahuna after the game. “We couldn’t maintain any momentum, any sense of rhythm. We’d have spots when we played well, then we’d hand the game over with errors.”

The Mustangs took advantage early, out-hitting HPU .182-.175 in the first game and .406-.325 in the second. But the Lady Sea Warriors took charge of game three, shutting down the attack and forcing the Mustangs into 13 errors for a -.083 attack percentage.

“ In this kind of game, you have to be patient,” said Brakling. “We had to concentrate at the serve and hit the ball in different spots. Once we started doing that, the game came back to us.”

Concentration paid off, and HPU dominated game three while committing zero attack errors.

WNMU nearly pulled off the upset in game four, leading 22-16 at one time, but HPU tied it at 25 apiece when middle blocker Barbara Martin and setter Vera Oliveira roofed the Mustang’s Kim Tano. The Lady Sea Warriors went on to win by four points.

The fifth and decisive game was all HPU. Ahuna told her squad the game was theirs for the taking, and Oliveira, last week’s Pac West Player of the Week, made a bold prediction. “I told the team we were going to win 15-0,” she joked. With outside hitter Paula Nascimento at the service line, HPU went on an 11-0 scoring run. “I remembered what Vera said, and it was like, WOW,” said Nascimento. But WNMU’s Tano spoiled the perfect game with a kill. HPU went on to a 15-5 victory.

Oliveira had a match-high 62 assists with 550 for the season. She notched a double-double with 11 digs. Outside hitter Nadica Karleusa finished with 16 kills and fellow Brazilian Martin added 13.

The WNMU match was HPU’s fifth five-game match of the year. In fact, both of its losses were in five. The match followed a four game road trip in which HPU swept WNMU and Montana State Billings and was the first of a six-game home stand.


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