Molokai High School came into the Ann Kang Invitational with just two days of practice as a team and determined to do better than its previous performances in the volleyball tournament.
"Our team wanted to really work hard at this tournament," said junior outside hitter Kalei Vaivai. "We have something to prove. Coming from a small island, people think we don’t have anything to bring to the table, so I think we really wanted it for us as a team and to bring it back to our island."
What the Farmers discovered in the three-day tournament was their perseverance and a band of players who can respond on the court. Yesterday, Molokai defeated host ‘Iolani 25-21, 22-25, 15-10 to claim the silver bracket final of the Ann Kang Invitational. It was the best performance here for the Farmers, who also finished the highest out of any local squad in the 16-team tournament that ended yesterday with matches in the copper, bronze, silver and gold brackets.
Chung Shan Industrial and Commercial High School of Taiwan swept Mira Costa (Calif.) 25-14, 25-23 to win the gold bracket and tournament title. Chung Shan is the first international team to win the tournament since it started in 1989.
"We learned how to push through and work as a team," said Vaivai, who had 10 kills against ‘Iolani.
The Farmers stared at an 11-5 deficit in Set 2 because of a rotation violation, then quickly got themselves back into the match by scoring six straight to tie it at 11-11. The Raiders built a four-point lead on several occasions and led 22-19 before two ‘Iolani errors and Vaivai’s service ace tied the set at 22-22. Vaivai then served into the net and a Molokai hitting error and Watanabe’s kill ended the set.
The rally, though, was promising, and the Farmers used a 5-0 run to lead 8-3 in Set 3.
"Our coach always reminds us to be a team no matter what adversity we have to go through," Vaivai said. "Even that (deficit), he told us to push through and push through. He taught us to be a team. It’s not just one person."
Kalei Adolpho, who will play basketball and volleyball next year at the University of Hawaii, had 11 kills against ‘Iolani. While Adolpho’s been the focus for years, setter Kawena Puhi has multiple options on offense. Natalia Levi added six kills yesterday and had two big blocks to help the Farmers build their lead in Set 3. Molokai pulled away in the final set without Adolpho burying a kill until it was 14-10.
"As a setter, I have to run the plays," Puhi said. "Knowing I can commit to any place and not worry about it going into the net or going out, I feel good about myself. It gives me confidence that I can set anybody."
While the Farmers were hoping to win the entire tournament, they were more than thrilled with their plaque from capturing the silver bracket. Molokai’s two dozen fans roared when Vaivai’s kill ended the match and the team took pictures with its new hardware after the match.
"Here, we can play Division I and II teams, and mainland teams," said Puhi, whose team will only play Division II teams in the Maui Interscholastic League. "It was a great opportunity to come over here and Oahu is way different than Maui."
Haley Robinson had 10 kills and Sara Watanabe had nine for the Raiders, who defeated Kamehameha-Maui earlier in the day to advance to the silver final. Molokai defeated Kahuku to advance to the silver final.
Moanalua defeated Maryknoll 21-25, 25-16, 15-10 to win the bronze bracket title and Granbury (Texas) swept Santa Monica (Calif.), 25-17, 25-22 to win the copper bracket.