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Saturday, November 22, 2014         

HIGH SCHOOL VOLLEYBALL


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Mililani serves up a win, plays Punahou in semifinals

By Paul Honda

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The Mililani Trojans used superior serving, with five aces from Jordyn Keamo and five more from Jayierra Kapowai for a 25-18, 20-25, 25-10, 25-23 win over Kamehameha-Hawaii in the quarterfinals of the New City Nissan/HHSAA Girls Volleyball Division State Championships at McKinley Student Council Gymnasium.

Unseeded Mililani (15-2), the runner-up from the Oahu Interscholastic Association, will face Punahou tonight. It will be the second trip to the semifinal round in as many years for the Trojans.

"Our goal used to be to make it to states," Mililani coach Val Crabbe said. "Now, my goal is for us to still be playing on the last day. That would mean we're playing to place."

Mililani will place, all right. The Trojans were persistent defensively and wound up with 24 more swings than fourth-seeded KS-Hawaii, the previously unbeaten Big Island Interscholastic Federation champion. Mililani hit just .220 against a stubborn Warriors defense. KS-Hawaii hit .241, but had just one ace with six service errors.

Kamehameha-Hawaii (14-1) had no answer for the relentless serving attack of Mililani, which finished with 11 aces and just five service errors.

Inoa Fields, who led the Trojans with 13 kills, was another spark at serve, driving her team through several key runs.

"Our coaches were calling all the serving spots. When you get deeper into the match, you serve better," Fields said.

Keamo was a source of power with 12 kills, while Kapowai (eight kills) and middle Samantha Fischer (seven) gave the Trojans a balanced offense. Fischer, a 5-foot-10 senior, had four blocks. Shaylin Sueda (26 assists) and Casie Gaza (14) were nearly flawless.

Shae Kanakaole led the Warriors with 14 kills and Kaiulani Ahuna added 11. Acacia Ka‘a‘a had 35 assists.

But it was Mililani's serve that has carried the squad, along with solid back-row defense.

"Coach Joy (Lo) calls the (serving) spots," said Kapowai, a 5-7 junior. "We really wanted to make it. We worked too hard to go home today."

It was a bittersweet result to what had been a dream season for the Warriors.

"They served well and we didn't pass well. We tried to make some adjustments, stepping back on some servers, move forward on certain servers," coach Kyle Ka‘a‘a said.

Preparing for a lineup of outstanding servers wasn't easy. KS-Hawaii tried to duplicate that by facing some of its coaching staff at practice during serve-receive drills.

"I don't think we've faced as many versatile servers," Ka‘a‘a said of Mililani. "We tried to practice and prepare for that."

Kanakaole had seven kills in the second set as the Warriors evened the match, but Mililani regained momentum with four aces — three by Kapowai — during an 11-2 run to start the third set.

In the fourth set, KS-Hawaii rallied from a 16-10 deficit to tie it at 17-all on a roll shot by Ahuna, but Kapowai came through with a couple of kills and Fields tipped another, and Mililani never trailed again.

Punahou 3, Moanalua 0

Top-seeded Punahou got 16 kills from Carly Kan for a 25-13, 25-14, 25-25 sweep of Moanalua in quarterfinal play at McKinley.

Punahou improved to 16-1, playing in the tourney for the first time this week after an opening-round bye. Moanalua, the third-place team from the OIA. fell to 13-5.

Kelly Matthews added seven kills and middle Marisa Behrens led Punahou's big wall with four blocks. Julia Lau and Kan each had 10 digs, while setter Tayler Higgins had three aces.

Anuhea Paiva had six kills and Lia Gaogao added five for Moanalua. Paiva had a match-high 13 digs.

The Buffanblu are trying to stay focused despite Halloween. Coach Peter Balding had his team on media lockdown — no interviews before or after matches — but relented a bit after the sweep.

"I'm sorry, but there are too many distractions," said Balding, who guided Punahou to the state title last year. "I told them, ‘Just let me do the talking to media."

Punahou played several reserves, though most of the starters rotated in and out throughout the match.

"I feel good," outside hitter Kan said. "We actually executed well and we had the right mindset."

Balding's concerns should keep the Buffanblu sharp. They had to be on their toes against Moanalua, which led 6-2 in the second set. The Buffanblu came alive with two crushers by Matthews on the right side and three aces by Higgins during a 6-0 run. They gradually increased that lead to 15-9 as Moanalua's energy and momentum were sapped the rest of the night.

Now Punahou takes aim at Mililani, the OIA runner-up.

"Val (Crabbe) does a great job of getting the most out of her talent. They're always in the championship match or close to it," Balding said. "They have a never-say-die attitude. I like the way they play. They don't look tall. They just battle."






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