Peterson paces Sonoma State to win
Senior smashes a season-high 21 kills as Seawolves advance
SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. --After Sonoma State cruised to a dominating first set win, Hawai'i-Hilo came back to tie the match at 1-1. It looked as if UH-H would take the match lead after three sets, but the Seawolves rebounded with a 9-1 set-clinching run late in the third frame to lead 2-1. The Seawolves held off the Vulcans in the fourth to earn their first tournament victory in school history, 3-1 (25-11, 19-25, 25-22, 25-23).
Keala Peterson smashed a season-high 21 kills to the floor as the Seawolves overcame a stifling defensive effort by the Vulcans to advance to Friday's regional semifinal at 5:00 p.m., against No. 2 seed UC San Diego. The Tritons advanced by virtue of a three-set sweep of No. 7 seed Grand Canyon, also on Thursday.
Third-seeded Sonoma State, which was eliminated in first round matches in each of the past three seasons, improves to 1-3 in the postseason as a Division II program and 22-6 overall this season. Hawai'i-Hilo, the No. 6 seed in the regional tournament, finishes its year at 15-7.
It didn't take long at all to show proof that the Seawolves could win a first round match. After holding a narrow lead at 8-6, Sonoma State exploded for 16 of the set's next 21 points, crusing to an easy 25-11 win. In that set alone, Peterson piled up seven kills with no errors as the team hit a blazing .438 (17 kills, three errors, 32 attacks). More impressively, the SSU defense came up big, holding the nation's best hitter, Hillary Hurley, to just two kills and three errors.
In the second set, Hawai'i-Hilo made its adjustments and sprinted to a 10-4 lead, forcing a SSU timeout. The Seawolves would crawl back into the match, eventually trailing by just one points at 18-17. It would be as close as SSU would get, however, as the Vulcans evened the match at 1-1 with a 25-19 win.
Hawai'i-Hilo looked as if they kept the momentum to begin the third set, grabbing four straight points after a 5-5 tie to lead by four at 9-5. Sonoma State kept chipping away at the lead, not allowing UHH to lead by more than four points. As the set continued on, the Vulcans knew that it was their's to win. But, the Seawolves, who trailed by five points at 21-16 and facing a 2-1 match deficit, rallied to score nine of the next 10 points to stun Hawai'i-Hilo for the 25-22 win and the 2-1 match lead.
The fourth set became a back and forth battle between the two squads, especially early on. After UHH would tie the set at 11-11, SSU scored four straight points, then extended its lead to a comfortable 20-14 lead. However, nothing comes easy at regionals. The Vulcans caught back up and would trail by one point on three separate occasions late in the set, including a 24-23 score. That's when Peterson took over, slamming her 21st kill to the court at Coussoulis Arena to give the Seawolves the 25-23 match-clinching win and a date with either UC San Diego or Grand Canyon in Friday's regional semifinals.
Peterson ended up hitting .302 on Thursday and she got some help from her fellow outside-hitting teammates. Kelsey Hull landed 17 kills, followed by 15 kills from Ally Sather. Brooke Moore hit at a .571 clip with nine kills and one error in 14 swings as Sonoma State hit .272 for the match. Hayley Ross handed out a career-high 60 assists in the victory. The offense didn't come easy, though, as the Hawai'i-Hilo defense had 15 total blocks on the day.
Defensively, the Seawolves sparkled. Hilo's Hurley, who came into the match averaging 6.5 kills per set, 1.5 more than any other Division II player in the nation, connected 14 times, but erred seven times in 51 attacks. With Sonoma State holding UHH's best hitter, Rachel Thornquist stepped up to deliver 13 kills, followed by 11 off the hand of Kirsten Sparnaalj. Taylor Krenwinkel led all players with 19 digs, one of five SSU players with 10 or more digs in the match. Lindsay Lytle helped with 15 digs, Peterson recorded a double-double with 12 digs (to go along with the aforementioned 21 kills) and Ross and Nicole Gragnola made 10 digs.
Sonoma State will face a familiar foe in UC San Diego in the semifinals, scheduled to start at 5:00 p.m. on Friday. The Seawolves and Tritons split the regular season series this season, as both teams won on their respective home floors.