POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Oct 30, 2010
PUKALANI, Maui » The Cougars were on the prowl and the Punahou Buffanblu were their prey.
Kaiser dominated the opening set, but No. 1 seed Punahou killed the Cougars' upset dream with a 15-25, 25-14, 25-21, 25-13 win last night in the semifinals of the New City Nissan/HHSAA Division I Girls Volleyball State Championships.
"They played great. They peaked at the right time," Punahou coach Peter Balding said of the Cougars. "I thought they were excellent."
A sparse crowd of less than 200 saw a stirring effort by the unseeded Cougars at King Kekaulike High School gym. Three aces by junior Shannon Kim flustered Punahou, and 6-foot-2 Nikki Taylor slammed five of her match-high 15 kills in the opening set.
Kaiser led 13-4 and was never seriously threatened.
Punahou (20-2), the Interscholastic League of Honolulu champion, will meet ILH runner-up and five-time defending state champ Kamehameha in tonight's final.
Kamehameha defeated Waiakea 25-15, 25-12, 25-21 in the other semifinal, which was played at Kamehameha-Maui's campus.
Punahou's serve was erratic at times (nine service errors), but the Buffanblu still gave Kaiser problems by tallying seven aces.
"You can't do anything unless you pass," Kaiser coach Ernest Noborikawa said, noting that his team played well overall.
"They came out with a lot of energy, focus and desire today. They really wanted to shock the world and beat Punahou tonight," he said. "Punahou's a good team. Their passing got better and they could run their play sets. Our passing broke down in certain sections of the game."
The Buffanblu also made adjustments to their passing line. The result for Kaiser, which totaled four aces in the first set, was only two more the rest of the night.
The Buffanblu also inserted reserve sophomore Taylor Dayton, who sprung off the bench for 11 kills.
"I feel pretty happy. I never played that much (in the front row) in a long time," she said. "I'm proud of our team. We worked together."
With Dayton on the court and Tai Manu-Olevao crushing the ball (12 kills), the middle opened up for Brigitte Russo, who finished with a team-high 13 kills with a whopping .750 hitting percentage.
Senior setter Ali Santi dished out 42 assists as Punahou regained its balance in the second set.
"We came out a little bit nervous. We might've been looking ahead a little bit," Santi said. "But we got it together in the end and started digging, digging dirt."
Libero Kat Brooks and the back row began catching up to the towering blasts from Taylor, while Dayton, Manu-Olevao and Russo teamed up on the talented outside hitter.
Kaiser hit just .048 in the second set.
The Cougars (13-7) rallied to take a 14-13 lead in the fourth game after a block by Haley Durham, a 6-foot- junior. Durham added a kill to give Kaiser a two-point lead and the teams battled back and forth until senior Shannan McCready (eight kills) powered a kill to give Punahou a 20-19 lead, spurring an 8-4 run to close out the match.
McCready had two more kills during the run, and Santi's floater for an ace helped seal the fourth set.
Kaiser had nine blocks in all, including six by junior Courtney Phillips, but none in the fourth set. Punahou dominated, hitting .583 with little resistance at the net from Kaiser.
The Cougars were within 12-9 after a kill by Dominique Chang, but Punahou went on a 10-4 run to end the match.
At King Kekaulike
» Kamehameha-Hawaii def. Mililani, 25-12, 25-22 Statistics--KS-Hawaii: Katelynne Paleka-Kennedy 6 kills. Mililani: Shyanne Cossey 5 kills.
» Punahou def. Kaiser, 15-25, 25-14, 25-21, 25-13 Statistics--Punahou: Brigitte Russo 14 kills, 4 blocks; Tai Manu-Olevao 13 kills, 2 blocks; Taylor Dayton 12 kills, 2 blocks. Kaiser: Nikki Taylor 15 kills; Haley Durham 10 kills, 2 blocks.
» Kamehameha defeated Waiakea, 25-15, 25-12, 25-21 Statistics--Kamehameha: Misty Ma'a 11 kills; Amanda Wasko 7 kills; Alohi Robins-Hardy 27 assists. Waiakea: Morgan Rapozo 7 kills.
Fifth: Kahuku vs. KS-Hawaii, 2:30 p.m.
Third: Kaiser vs. Waiakea, 4 p.m.
Championship: Punahou vs. Kamehameha , 6 p.m.