POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Oct 31, 2012
Once they stepped onto the court at Kaimuki High School, nothing else mattered to the Pearl City Chargers.
Pearl City, the sixth-place team with the last state tournament berth out of the OIA Red, rallied for an astounding 22-25, 24-26, 25-19, 25-23, 15-12 win over Hilo on Tuesday night in the opening round of the New City Nissan/HHSAA Division I Girls Volleyball State Championships.
Senior Kaya Chong, a 5-foot-10 outside hitter, led the charge with 18 kills, two blocks and one of her team’s nine aces.
“This is the first time in my high school years of getting past the first round at states,” Chong said. “We were scared, but we had an inspirational talk with our coaches.”
Hilo had 16 aces and just three service errors, but struggled in the last three sets with 16 hitting errors.
The Chargers (10-5) were especially clutch in the final set, committing no hitting errors while Hilo had five.
“They should hold their heads up,” Hilo coach Olino Kotaki said. “It came down to who played better defense in the last couple of sets. Pearl City is a scrappy team.”
Pearl City jumped to an 8-2 lead, but nearly lost its cushion. The Vikings, led by Amanda Loeffler (17 kills, four aces), got a block from Leilani Smith, an ace by Loeffler and a kill by junior Evalani Toledo during a run that brought them within 9-8.
From there, however, hitting errors doomed Hilo (15-3), the BIIF’s runner-up squad. Four of them allowed Pearl City to open a 13-8 lead.
Hilo rallied again, getting within 13-11 after an ace by Smith that trickled over the net. After a kill by Toledo, the Vikings were within one point.
But Johnai Kapua’s kill over the middle stifled Hilo’s rally, and Chong ended it with a kill on an overpass.
“We had nothing to lose,” Chong said. “We just had to relax. We were all thinking too much and we couldn’t pass the ball. Our coaches said, ‘Keep the ball in play, go for everything,’ and all our teammates did their job.”
Kapua, a 5-10 junior, had nine kills, while Taylor Inong added eight. Kacie Chinen had four aces and freshman McKayla Apo added three. In all, the Chargers had 15 service errors, but nine of those miscues came in the first two sets.
Pearl City’s lineup was a bit out of sync with two players, including one starter, late to the match due to a school-related function. Eight players began the match.
“We had to make that lineup change and we kept changing in those first three sets,” coach Kory Toyozaki said. “We talked about minimizing errors. We had to take care of our side of the court.”
The second-year head coach, with a total of 15 years as a head coach and assistant in the OIA, couldn’t remember a bigger comeback.
“This bunch of girls, they’re so roller coaster. If the team that practices at Pearl City would travel, heads would turn,” Toyozaki said.
The Chargers’ back-row play wore down the Vikings, who accumulated 24 hitting errors in the match.
“Our defense is our bread and butter,” Toyozaki said.
Chinen, a libero, was steady, as were Chong and even middle Kara Aiwohi, in the back. Aiwohi and Courtney Mersberg had five kills each. Mersberg, a senior setter, had a team-high 15 assists.
Toledo finished with 11 kills and Smith tallied seven kills and a match-high five aces.
Shaila Wilbur-Gabriel had six kills and an ace, and Shayonne DeMattos added five with two aces.
Taylor Alicuben, a sophomore, had 25 assists and junior Maraea Chung tallied 16 dishes.
Kamehameha 3, Kalani 0
Pikake Laumauna had 10 kills and four blocks as Kamehameha rolled to a 25-17, 25-15, 25-18 win over the stubborn Falcons at Kaimuki High School gym.
Faith Ma‘afala added seven kills and four blocks, Tiyana Hallums had seven kills and an ace, and Pomai Recca tallied six kills and a block for Kamehameha (14-3).
Kaiana Iaea led Kalani (11-6), the OIA Red’s fourth-place team, with 13 kills and two blocks.