Red Raiders rule OIA
CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARADVERTISER.COM
The Kahuku Red Raiders celebrated after winning the OIA girls volleyball Division I championship on Thursday.
Every day, Mounia Tachibana sets the bar.
Relentless serving drills with sprints for missed targets. Weight room work. The top-ranked Lady Raiders of Kahuku thrive on it, and they showed it on Thursday night by tooling 15 aces in a 25-15, 25-15, 25-17 sweep of No. 5 Mililani to capture the OIA Division I girls volleyball championship.
A boisterous gathering of about 2,000 at McKinley Student Council Gymnasium saw Kahuku (14-0) lead for virtually the entire match against a game Trojans squad. Mililani, unbeaten in league play coming into the final, simply struggled with Kahuku’s balance. Six different Lady Raiders recorded at least one ace. Phoebe Grace, their 6-foot-2 senior, led with nine kills, two aces and two blocks.
Junior opposite ShaLi Niu was everywhere with eight kills, three aces and two blocks. Senior Cheyenne Te‘o had five of her seven kills in the second game, and she had three aces.
Carey Williams, a senior, also had seven kills along with a whopping five aces.
Junior Lauolive Tonga pounded six kills on a night when setter ShaRae Niu was nearly flawless with 32 assists, two kills and an ace.
“We feel great,” said Grace, who has orally committed to play for the University of Utah. “We’re really happy to get this OIA championship. We were perfect. Well, not perfect, but almost.”
Kahuku committed just four service errors and hit .506. Mililani had the edge in blocks, 6-5.
“It wasn’t our best match,” their coach, Tachibana, said. “We played better at Durango against the bigger teams.”
Still, the coach wore a smile. It goes back to work ethic for the Lady Raiders.
“Mililani’s a great team. I like the fact that Val (Crabbe) switched out her blocking on our big hitters,” Tachibana said. “Our practices are intense and they get us prepared for moments like this.”
Ashley Pawlak led Mililani (12-1) with eight kills, and middle Katie Asbury added seven kills, two blocks and an ace.
Falanika Danielson (four kills) and Aysia Miller (three kills) also added support. Hope Carter dished 17 assists.
Miller gave her team a spark in the third game, when Mililani led for the only time in the match, 1-0. Miller had all three of her kills in the third as the Lady Trojans stayed close.
But every time they seemed on the verge of a run, a little mistake would derail momentum.
Mainly, though, it was Kahuku’s amazing prowess at serve.
“We couldn’t get our serve-receive going,” Mililani coach Val Crabbe said. “You’ve got to give it to them. Their serving was tough. In preseason, it was the same thing. Kahuku played well.”
The Lady Raiders were on fire from the start, taking an 8-1 lead and later opening it to 16-6. Mililani went on an 8-1 run behind kills from Asbury and Pawlak. But with the game at 17-14, Kahuku closed it out with an 8-1 run of its own.
The Lady Raiders smoked six aces in the second set and drilled 15 kills without a hitting error in the second game.
For now, though, it’s back to school on Friday morning, then practice and the weight room.
“We’re going to get to work on our blocking and cutbacks, serve and serve-receives, and get ready for states,” Grace added.
Kamehameha takes ILH title back
Kamehameha reclaimed the ILH girls volleyball championship with a 25-22, 20-25, 25-17, 25-18 win over Punahou on Thursday evening at Kekuhaupio Gym.
The victory gave the Warriors, ranked No. 2 in the state behind Kahuku, their 19th overall ILH title and seventh under coach Chris Blake.
Kamehameha was the two-time defending ILH champion in 2015, when it lost to ‘Iolani. The Raiders became the first school other than Punahou or Kamehameha to win the ILH D-I title since 2001.
The Warriors got their revenge in the title game of the state tournament a year ago, beating ‘Iolani.
Kamehameha clinched a state-tournament berth, winning the first round of the ILH regular season this year, finishing at 9-1, one game ahead of ‘Iolani.
No. 4 Punahou will play No. 3 ‘Iolani for the ILH’s second berth in the state tournament today at 5 p.m. at ‘Iolani.