HIANG ends regular season on dominant victory

Staff Sgt. David Stiders reaches for a kill attempt.

Story and photo by Randy Dela Cruz

Sports Editor, Ho‘okele

Most of the regular season has been a cakewalk for defending volleyball champion Hawaii Air National Guard (HIANG) and the trend continued in the team’s final game before the playoffs with a 25-6 and 25-13 straight-set dismantling of Navy Information Operations Command (NIOC) Hawaii on Aug. 17 at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam Fitness Center.

Although HIANG played the game without any substitutes, it didn’t matter. The veteran-led squad dominated from the first serve all the way to the last.

HIANG enters the playoffs as the No. 1 seed from the Gold Division with a record of 8-1, while NIOC ended their season with a record of 2-8.

While it may seem like a disadvantage for the HIANG to play a lower-tier team in their division to end the season, Tech. Sgt. Stephen Lorenzo, HIANG team captain, said that NIOC was the perfect squad to play just before the playoffs

“This helps because we’ve got some new faces, but that’s OK as long as we can get the reps in,” he said. “Getting real-game play, it helps them get stronger and gives them more confidence. They’ve seen it before and it’s not a strange situation.”

New faces or not, it was the core of HIANG veteran players who took control early and helped the team run away to the easy victory.

Lorenzo was especially hot in the first set, as he slammed his way to seven kills in the team’s first 15 points.

Lorenzo’s kill percentage was off the chart with conversions on almost every kill shot he attempted.

“I got lucky a lot,” Lorenzo said. “We just train a lot more. We just had a whole lot more experience. That always shows when we play other teams.”

Lorenzo’s laser-like shots just seemed to inspire the rest of his teammates. HIANG took a 1-1 tie and turned it into a 9-1 lead on eight consecutive points.

Up next was Staff Sgt. David Stiders, who began to make contact in the frontcourt.

Stiders came up with a solid block to give HIANG a 13-2 lead and then finished off a six-point run with a kill that made it 16-2.

Then, as HIANG got ready for the stretch run to end the first set, Staff Sgt. AlanMichael Warner got hot and led the team to the finish line.

Warner got his first kill of the night to make the score 18-4 and then connected on three more kills out of the final seven points for the 25-6 firstset victory.

“We just want to make each other better,” Lorenzo said. “I’m trying to push everybody as well and try not to worry so much about making mistakes.”

HIANG carried over the momentum from the first set into the second set, with Lorenzo setting the pace once again with two kills to lead his team to a 5-0 lead.

Warner also continued to blast away at the ball and picked up back-to-back kills that gave HIANG an 11-4 advantage.

Then with HIANG up by a score of 17-4, Warner went on a tear with a block and two more kills to put the game out of reach with the score at 20-5.

Even though the HIANG hardly broke a sweat in recording the straight-set win, Lorenzo said that he still found ways to keep the players focused and challenged.

“I try to make it challenging for them,” he said. “Serving for instance, get the first two serves in, that’s our mission.

After that you can serve away. Then when you pass, make sure you pass good. I try to protect against complacency by making it little more challenging inside the game.”

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Category: Sports