Kahuku’s Tachibana beats mentor in volleyball

Kahuku coach Mounia Tachibana didn’t want to draw a lot of attention to it, but after such a major accomplishment, she couldn’t keep it in.

Tachibana’s second-ranked Red Raiders knocked off No. 1 Kamehameha 25-23, 21-25, 25-22 in the Kamehameha Invitational girls volleyball tournament Saturday afternoon. And she can now check something of her to-do list: a victory over Chris Blake, her former high school coach.

“I know it’s preseason and anything can happen at the end of the season,” Tachibana said. “For the moment, we are excited because of it. Chris was my coach when I was here at Kamehameha. He always has a tough team. In the moment, we’re very, very excited.”

Tachibana thought both teams struggled due to the grueling tourney schedule along with the nervousness commonly found in the final of such an important early-season get-together.

“This is a good win for us, but we have a lot more to do and a lot more to work on,” Kahuku setter ShaRae Niu said.

With 10 of 15 players returning from last year’s Red Raiders team that lost to ‘Iolani in the state semifinals, Kahuku is on the way up in terms of maturity.

“I think the girls did very well just mentally challenging themselves,” Tachibana said. “Trying to get that perfect pass, getting that hit, and it didn’t work out physically as well as it could have, but I think the girls did very well, fighting, fighting, fighting for every single point. Down two points, they come firing back. That is what we really want to work on, because last year we kind of were struggling with that.”

In the deciding set, there were 10 ties and four lead changes. Kahuku went up for good on Niu’s ace that made it 21-20. A bit later, Kamehameha’s Kayla Afoa hit long to give the Red Raiders a 24-22 lead before Kahuku’s Katelyn Erickson put down set point with an assist from Niu.

Kahuku won the opening set, which had 16 ties and six lead changes. ShaLi Niu, ShaRae’s younger sister, tied it up 23-23 with a kill and then gave the Red Raiders the lead with an ace before they secured set point when the Warriors’ Kili Robins hit the antenna and the ball went out on a kill attempt.

Kamehameha dominated the second set, securing leads as big as 8-2 and 20-14. From there, Braelyn Akana and Tymane Talanoa had kills for the Warriors before Afoa finished off the set on a kill with a helper from Lexis Akeo.

“I’m proud of our girls and how they adjusted and did the little things in order to improve,” Kamehameha’s Blake said after the loss. We didn’t come out on top, but a lot of it was due to what Kahuku was doing.”

Added Warriors libero Kyra Hanawahine, “We expected Kahuku to be very good. I think that on our side of the court, we needed to work together better and focus on the little things more. And on their side, they did a great job coming at us 100 percent every single time. I respect that team a lot and I think they did great.”

Carey Williams pounded 13 kills for Kahuku and middle blocker Phoebe Grace added nine kills and two blocks. Afoa had 11 kills for Kamehameha, Kili Robins contributed nine, and Akana came up with four blocks.