Mililani dominates Kahuku to reclaim OIA crown
KAKAAKO — Trojan town is title town once again.
No. 3 Mililani reclaimed the OIA Division I crown — its third in program history — with a 25-18, 25-17, 25-14 win over No. 9 Kahuku in the league championship match before a boisterous crowd of about 600 at McKinley's Student Council Gymnasium Wednesday night.
It was the Trojans' first title since 2013, which was also the last time they defeated the Red Raiders on the court. The two teams last met in the 2016 OIA final, which Kahuku won in straight sets.
Junior outside hitter Falanika Danielson, who played in the 2016 contest, was thrilled that the Trojans were able to redeem themselves.
"It's an amazing feeling because two years ago, it wasn't really our best play. I know we could've done better," said Danielson, who led Mililani with match-highs in kills (17) and digs (11).
"This year, we really stuck to our goals as a team and personally, and we pushed through. We (got) our redemption and we succeeded."
The Trojans (13-0) also completed an undefeated run through OIA play with the sweep and is the only Oahu team left that has not dropped a match in league play. They will have a first round bye in next week's New City Nissan D1 state tournament, which begins on Monday.
Outside of a 14-0 run by Kahuku (12-2) in the early part of the opening set, the Mililani was in complete control for most of the night. The Trojans had over double the amount of kills (42) than Kahuku did and out-dug the Red Raiders, 53 to 41. Kahuku also finished with a negative hitting percentage, totaling just 17 kills against 22 attack errors.
"(Mililani) played the way they've always played," said Kahuku first-year coach Tuli Tevaga. "We were right there in the beginning, but then we didn't hold on."
The Trojans jumped out to an early 5-1 lead in the first stanza, but fell into a slump that gave Kahuku a 15-5 advantage. After tinkering with the lineup, Mililani banded together with a 20-3 run to win the first set, 25-18.
Mililani coach Val Crabbe, who guided the Trojans to their third title in eight years, said her team has a lot of experience in climbing back from a deficit, whether it be mimicking game situations in practice or going up against a tough opponent.
In particular, the Trojans were battled-tested after their 25-23, 23-25, 25-23, 26-24 win over defending champ Moanalua in the semifinals. Na Menehune held a 10-3 lead in set three after tying the match, but Mililani was able to rally to win it in four close sets.
"I told (the girls) a lot of the drills that we do in practice we're behind, and we work to get back into the game. And then our game against Moanalua, we were behind, and they stayed in it and they did really well. They fought in that Moanalua game, which was a really good game for us."
Crabbe also made the key adjustment to insert senior Starr Sergent in the lineup when her team was down 15-5 against Kahuku. Sergent did well off the bench with six kills, two blocks and an ace, and she remained on the floor until the Trojans had a 18-13 lead in the second set.
"She had a really great game, she really did. She really showed up tonight," Crabbe said of Sergent.
Freshman Aria Miller added nine kills and nine digs, senior Gabby Naniseni had five kills and three blocks and junior Aysia Miller dished out 29 assists with seven digs, three blocks and two kills. Mahealani Chun also had two kills and a bump set to set up match point.
Mary Fonoimoana had five kills and two blocks to lead the Red Raiders in the loss. Keau Kamakeeaina was also key with four aces — which all came during Kahuku's 14-0 run in the first set — and 10 assists and nine digs.