Kahuku sweeps way to final
BRUCE ASATO/ BASATO@STARADVERTISER.COM
Kahuku’s Phoebe Grace hit past the block of Kapolei’s Anela Pakaki-Pias and Michelyn Pililaau on Tuesday.
Perfection isn’t always pretty.
The No. 1 Kahuku girls volleyball team swept Kapolei 25-14, 25-22, 25-19 on Tuesday in the first Oahu Interscholastic Association Division I semifinal at McKinley High School, but Red Raiders head coach Mounia Tachibana wasn’t satisfied with her team’s performance.
“I think because we’re finally No. 1, they were just trying to overdo it. I’m not happy with it, but it was really good for us to learn from it,” Tachibana said. “Just being that No. 1 team, always doing good and finally having a team to put up blocks against us and block us, but it’s all good. I think it was a nice humbling experience.”
Kahuku (13-0) hasn’t given up a set in conference play and hit .209 in the sweep with 23 digs, six aces and eight service errors. The Hurricanes (10-2) hit .076 with 28 digs, one ace and nine service errors. The last time these two squads faced off, Kahuku barely defeated Kapolei in a five-set OIA quarterfinal victory. Tachibana wanted her players to remember that feeling after last year’s match.
“Last year was a mental game with them, it was a mental fight,” Tachibana said. “This year I think they just had to stay a little more disciplined and I think they were overall more excited, nervous, and had all those emotions going on.”
Both teams struggled at the beginning of the televised match, with half of the first 18 points coming from errors. Despite the shaky start, the match remained close with nine ties with eight lead changes. After losing a three-point lead, Kapolei’s Alexis Mareko used the block to earn her first kill and tie the game at 12. The Hurricanes quickly returned the lead to the Red Raiders with their fourth service error and Kahuku libero Puao Sao rattled off seven straight points behind the service line to take a commanding 19-12 advantage. The Red Raiders’ tough serving threw Kapolei off balance and forced sophomore setter Olivia Transfiguracion to scramble around the court. Kahuku widened the gap even further with a 6-1 scoring run and finished Set 1 on a Phoebe Grace kill from the middle.
Kapolei, the OIA West Division runner-up, wasn’t phased by the initial loss. With the set tied at 6, the Hurricanes matched Kahuku point for point until the Red Raiders strung together four consecutive points, including a controversial call that appeared to sail long. But the line judge called a touch off the Kapolei block to hand Kahuku a 17-15 lead. The Hurricanes continued to battle against the OIA East champions, getting a touch on most of the Kahuku attacks, but struggled controlling the second and third contacts.
Kapolei’s Amryi Paris and Michelyn Pilila’au combined for a stuff to tie the set at 21. Red Raiders outside hitter Cheyenne Teo hammered a backrow attack that ricocheted off McKinley’s roof to take a 22-21 lead, but a rare ball-handling error on ShaRae Niu tied the set for the 13th time. After fighting for each point in Set 2, the Hurricanes gave up three straight hitting errors to hand the Red Raiders a 2-0 set advantage.
Grace, a 6-foot-2 Utah commit, took charge in the final set with three straight kills, two on the stepout and a middle attack off the block. The Red Raiders never gave up the lead and pulled away with another eight-point run behind Sao’s tough float serves. Kahuku’s Carey Williams spiked a right-side attack off a Kapolei defender to clinch the win.
Williams led the Red Raiders with nine kills, while Sao posted a match-high 12 digs and three aces. Kapolei’s 5-foot-2 outside hitter and team captain Jayleen Abregana led the Hurricanes with seven kills and four digs.
Kahuku hasn’t been challenged in conference play, but that could change in the OIA championship against Mililani (12-0). The No. 5 Trojans earned a 25-20, 25-22, 25-23 over No. 7 Moanalua (11-2) in the second semifinal and will face Kahuku in Thursday’s championship match at McKinley High School following the 5:30 p.m. Division II final.
“(Kahuku has) been in this situation last year, but I think overall, they’re going to be ready,” Tachibana said. “They have their own personal and team goals, and they keep each other in check and hold each other accountable. It makes my job a little easier.”