POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Oct 31, 2010
LAST UPDATED: 2:39 a.m. HST, Oct 31, 2010
There's nothing lucky about this sixth state title in a row.
Just a lot of hard work.
The Kamehameha Warriors can thank the Punahou Buffanblu for pushing them to their potential. Kamehameha, which lost to Punahou twice to end its Interscholastic League of Honolulu season, rode eight aces and a 17-kill performance from Misty Ma'a for a 25-13, 12-25, 25-15, 25-18 win over Punahou in the final of New City Nissan/HHSAA Division I Girls Volleyball State Championships.
It is Kamehameha's 17th state title in girls volleyball.
"I'm so happy, oh, my gosh. I'm just relieved. We wanted this so badly," said Ma'a, a daughter of former University of Hawaii players Pono Ma'a and Lisa Strand-Ma'a. "We had a bad start in the second set, but we had to keep fighting. In the third set, everything just fell together.
"We realized that this is the last time we're playing together. We had to fight back."
Ma'a was named most outstanding player.. Teammates Talia Jardin-Fermantez and Alohi Robins-Hardy joined her. Punahou's Brigitte Russo, Waiakea's Morgan Rapozo and Kaiser's Nikki Taylor rounded out the selections.
A crowd of about 1,200 watched at King Kekaulike High School gym. For a second year in a row, Kamehameha (22-2) finished second in the ILH to Punahou only to rally and knock off its rival for the state crown.
» Kamehameha def. Punahou 25-13, 12-25, 25-15, 25-18
Most outstanding player: Misty Ma'a, Kamehameha
Coach Chris Blake and his staff made some changes to their blocking approach and position after meeting Punahou three times this season.
"We worked on a lot of things in our pregame today," Blake said of his team's defensive positioning. "We looked at a lot of tape and saw them play (Friday). The girls went out and got it. We made sure we lined up right. (Punahou) has great attackers."
For much of the match, it seemed destined for the two powerhouses to reach a fifth set.
"We got to Set 2 and Punahou came out on fire, like the champions they are," Blake said. "We always want to play our best volleyball in the last match of the season and the girls brought it.
"I'm so proud of them and our coaching staff. The reason we're successful is all the little things they're doing."
Ma'a, a 6-foot-1 junior, added two of her team's nine blocks, another key factor. Jardin-Fermantez was on fire in the first set with all six of her blocks. She finished with nine kills, while Brit Kalepa added eight kills, including five in Set 4.
"We worked so hard. We just knew we had to play for each other," Jardin-Fermantez said. "Everyone stepped up and played with confidence. We were on it from the first set. All throughout the match, we lined up on their hitters and they helped me."
"We watched film and it helped us set up on their hitters," added Ma'a, who had two roofs.
Nicole Sniffen (five kills, one ace) and freshman Robins-Hardy (38 assists) were also instrumental. Robins-Hardy, at 6-1, added another dimension to Kamehameha's block since becoming a starter late in the season. Her nifty, no-look, left-handed dumps added up to five crucial kills.
Punahou (20-3) got plenty of swings, but couldn't get many clean looks against well-executed blocks. Middle blocker Russo had 13 kills and four of her team's nine blocks, and sophomore Carly Kan added eight kills. Tai Manu-Olevao (four kills, two blocks) and Shannan McCready (four kills, one ace) also kept the Buffanblu close.
Punahou didn't help itself with a slow start for a second night in a row. Kamehameha jumped to a 12-5 lead, opened it to 19-8, and coasted as Jardin-Fermantez and Ma'a teamed up on Manu-Olevao and other left-side hitters.
Punahou reversed the momentum in the second game, jumping to a 13-3 lead, with Russo getting the hot hand. Kamehameha got no closer than nine points the rest of the way.
The pivotal third set was tied at 3-all before the Warriors went on a 9-1 blitz. Aces by Sniffen and Maafala sparked the run, and Punahou got no closer than six. Ma'a was effective from the right and left sides, tallying five kills in the set.
Kamehameha led the entire way in the fourth, though Punahou was within 12-10 after a kill by Russo. Kalepa got hot with three kills to cap a 7-1 run as the Warriors won going away.
For the match, Kamehameha hit .345. Punahou finished at .279.