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HPU finishes strong but falls short

by Kalamalama staff


The 2003 HPU Lady Sea Warrior volleyball team fell short of its ultimate quest of a third national title but proved to themselves and the nation that they belonged amongst the best. Head coach Tita Ahuna, the 2003 Pacific West Conference Coach of the Year, took a squad of inexperienced underclassmen, weathered numerous injuries, overcame uncertainty, and defied the odds by taking her team to the NCAA II Pacific Regional championship game.


No.18 HPU fell to No. 4 Cal State San Bernardino 30-28, 30-21, 30-22, in the Pacific Final Nov. 22 at RIMAC Arena in San Diego, Calif.. The Lady Sea Warriors ended their season with a 17-8 record. CSSB finally broke through after three consecutive losses to HPU in the 2000 Regional Tourney Championship when HPU eliminated them on their way to perfect 28-win season and the National Crown. All-American candidate Kim Ford led the Coyotes and the match with 20 kills and 15 digs. Sophomore Flavia Brakling led HPU with 14 kills and 15 digs. The lady Sea Warriors were out-hit, .278-.122.

Fifth-seed HPU opened the tourney against four-seed Cal State Bakersfield in a match that saw both teams battling with nearly equal momentum. HPU prevailed in five games, outlasting CSB, 30-26, 24-30, 21-30, 30-23, 15-11. Freshman Barbara Martin led the way for the Lady Sea Warriors, hammering 15 kills for a .452 hitting percentage. The middle blocker from Curitiba, Brazil also contributed five blocks in the opening win. She was later named to the All-Regional team along with setter Vera Oliveira.

The win over CSB took HPU to the regional semifinals against No. 1 UC San Diego in what would be the “Game of the Year.” The Lady Sea Warriors went into the match a decided underdog. The top-ranked Tritons were playing on their home court and riding a 20-game home winning streak that went back to last season. Both teams had met earlier in the season, with UCSD winning in five, but that was in Hawaii, and the Tritons were heavily favored to win in front of a partisan crowd. After dropping a tight first set, HPU took command in game two, pounding a blistering .447 attack percentage. The Lady Sea Warriors edged the Tritons in game three, but UCSD stormed back in the fourth set to force a fifth and deciding game.

HPU got off to a horrendous start in the final set, going down 6-1 before an UCSD error stemmed the floodgates. En rout to HPU taking the game 29-31, 30-24, 31-29, 30-23, and 18-16.


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