Fullerton, CA- No.8 Hope International celebrated Senior Night in the Darling Pavilion by sweeping No. 1 Concordia (25-16, 25-19, 25-22) on Wednesday. Junior Dominique Blonski had a huge match as he buried 16 kills with just one error for a .625 hitting night. As a team, HIU did not have more than five hitting errors in any of the three sets.
From the very first serve HIU came out fired up. Junior Phillip Lopez wasted little time giving Hope International a quick lead as he buried a kill for the opening point of the night. The first seven points became an alternating kill fest by both teams with HIU eventually holding a 4-3 edge. Following the fourth tie of the set at 4-4, Blonski put home a kill to move the Royals (13-8, 4-3 National) ahead 5-4. Then Blonski stepped back to serve and drilled two straight service aces and HIU grabbed a 7-4 advantage. Hope International took off from there and won the set with ease.
The first set saw the two teams combined for just four hitting errors between them as HIU hit .667 and CUI hit .318. Blonski and Lopez both recorded six kills without an error.
Set two was about the Royals forcing the Eagles (22-5, 4-1 National) to make mistakes. Concordia recorded ten hitting and three serving errors in the set. Despite actually being out hit 11 kills to 10 kills in the second set, HIU allowed just one tie at 3-3.
Blonski had a team high of just three kills in the second set while Freshman Zach Greene earned two kills on four attacks without an error. Greene ultimately finished the evening with five kills and no errors.
For whatever drama sets one and two did not provide, set three made up for in a big way. After combining for just four ties in the first two sets, the teams excited the fans with a third set that featured 16 ties and seven lead changes. The set was up for grabs until the very end. In fact, the Eagles looked like they pull out the third set win as they were grabbed a 22-21 edge. But HIU shut the door and did not let CUI score again in the match. Blonski found the hardwood with a kill to tie the set at 22 all. Then Blonski teamed with Senior Griffin Levinski for a block. The final two points came off the arm of Junior Shalamar Buchanan who pounded out two kills to seal the win. Buchanan finished a perfect 3-3 in the match (primarily appearing as a late third set sub).
Behind Blonski's 16 kills, Lopez produced his best match as a Royal as he ended the evening with nine kills while hitting .462.
Interesting fact, Wednesday's win over #1 Concordia was the third time this season that Hope International has knocked off the NAIA's number one (or eventual number one) team in a sport. Heading into the NAIA National tournament for basketball last week, the only losses for No. 1 Vanguard in women's basketball and No. 1 CSU San Marcos in men's basketball (who was ranked No. 12 when HIU beat them) had come at the hands of the Royals.
The volleyball Royals hope to build on their upset win of Concordia as they head into this weekend's NAIA National Conference Tournament hosted by Concordia. HIU will play in the first and last matches of the upcoming conference tournament against Johnson & Wales at 10:00 am on Friday morning and Concordia themselves at 6:00 pm on Saturday with two other matches spread in between over the two days. If both teams (HIU and CUI) have won out prior to their Saturday evening contest then the automatic bid to the NAIA National Invitational will be at stake when the teams face off in Irvine.