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University stays hot in ILH

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A lopsided early-season loss could have demoralized the University girls volleyball team.

Instead, the Junior ‘Bows were galvanized by the challenge.

Since being hammered by Punahou on Aug. 31, University reeled off seven wins over its next eight matches and moved within sight of a state tournament berth.

The fifth-ranked ‘Bows maintained their momentum and a spot atop the Interscholastic League of Honolulu Division II standings with a 25-16, 25-15 win over St. Francis yesterday at Klum Gym.

The 45-minute sweep gave University (8-2) the inside track at the division’s first-round title and the accompanying state tournament spot.

University coach Walter Quitan credited a 25-6, 25-13 loss to Punahou for jump-starting the ‘Bows, whose only blemish since was a three-set battle with top-ranked Kamehameha.

"Punahou was the turning point of our season," Quitan said. "We played so bad that we really woke up understanding we have to play together and play as a team and we really have done that since then. Nobody wants to lose the way we lost, but it was really the best thing for us at that point in the season."

The ‘Bows clicked in all phases in yesterday’s duel between the ILH’s top two Division II teams, with each roster bolstered by the additions of four transfers following the closing of Word of Life Academy.

University setter Kaiulani Ka’alekahi, now more comfortable with the newcomers, operated an efficient offense led by Michelle Fainberg’s eight kills.

"It was tough at first because I had to learn how everybody hits and what they can do," Ka’alekahi said. "But now we have a lot of options and it just makes it easier to run an offense when you know everybody can get the job done."

Ka’alekahi fed Fainberg for five kills in the opening set and worked middle Quynne Eharis and Kaena Kaina and Kainoa Okasac into the attack in the second.

"She was under a lot of pressure this year," Quitan said. "We had some good players come in and we had good players returning, and it’s a hard job as a setter trying to make everybody happy."

Both teams have tough weeks ahead, with University facing Mid-Pacific — which upset Punahou earlier this season — and ‘Iolani. St. Francis (6-3) must rebound quickly with Kamehameha, Punahou and ‘Iolani awaiting.

"We need to work on our mental game," St. Francis coach Sonja Samsonas said. "It’s been kind of inconsistent throughout the season. Skill, I believe we’ve got it. Mentally, we’ve got to work on that part."


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