Meet the 2019 Star-Advertiser All-State Girls Volleyball players
CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARADVERTISER.COM
Kamehameha Schools’ Keonilei Akana was voted Star-Advertiser Girls Volleyball Player of the Year by a panel of coaches and media.
Putting a definition on a force of nature should be simple.
Ask Chris Blake about Keonilei Akana, and the Kamehameha math instructor pauses. It’s not often he halts himself, but he was limited to one word or sentence.
“Amazing leader,” said Blake, who fits that same description as Kamehameha’s longtime girls volleyball coach.
Blake guided the Warriors to their fourth state title in the past seven years and the 10th overall championship under his watch.
Akana was a durable, elite-level player at any position. The USC signee was voted Star-Advertiser Girls Volleyball Player of the Year by a panel of coaches and media. She was consistent, powerful, skilled and poised. She also played fantastic volleyball at the state tournament for a team that began the season with potential and ended it with a four-set win over rival and ILH regular-season winner Punahou in the state final.
Kamehameha finished the season 15-2, collected the koa trophy, and Akana was simply a force in every possible way on the floor. Elena Oglivie of ‘Iolani, who played for the national team during a span of the midseason, and Falanika Danielson of Mililani had similar versatility.
“(Akana) can pretty much do everything across the front and she can do everything across the back,” Mililani coach Val Crabbe said. “Her, ’Nike and Oglivie, their front and back row are spot on. (Akana’s) demeanor on the court, she’s about the success of her team, and she’s willing to do anything. You look at where they finished, and they finished on top.”
In the state quarterfinals, Akana had 16 kills and nine digs in Kamehameha’s sweep of Kapolei. In a semifinal sweep of Moanalua, Akana had 12 kills and 14 digs with one ace.
Kamehameha lost the opening set against Punahou in the state final, and Blake allowed his seniors to do the talking during the break between games. The Warriors responded well, and Akana crushed 22 kills with 11 digs and one ace in the title win.
The panel also voted Akana, who is pegged to play libero at USC, as the state’s best server.
“I think K-lei being voted Player of the Year is amazing. Having it end (in 2018) not the way we wanted it to, she was so determined. She was so focused and she was sure to make sure nothing would stand between her and her team’s success,” Blake said. “Her leadership along with Lagi (Sua-Godinet) and Bryanne (Soares). They were the right leaders at the right time.”
Blake was voted Coach of the Year by the panel. Punahou’s Tanya Fuamatu-Anderson was second in the voting, followed by outgoing Damien coach Don Faumuina, who led the Monarchs to the D-II state title.
Blake’s first state crown was in 2005. The Warriors have also been to the state final every year since ’02.
“It’s definitely a big deal to be honored and respected by those who are in the volleyball community. We always see it as a staff award, and we believe our staff did a wonderful job of preparation. We’re definitely honored to be part of that conversation,” he said.
Akana, who was joined by four teammates in the Fab 15, was No. 3 in the 2018 selections. She credits her teammates, her parents — mom is former Hawaii player Joselyn Robins and dad is former BYU-Hawaii basketball player Brandyn Akana — and older sister, Braelyn, now playing for UH.
Akana thrived at Kamehameha.
“Coach Chris is such a great coach. Every since my freshman year, the way that he coaches us, always telling us before a game that he has our back, I believe him and trust him, and I trust his process,” Akana said.