The Mid-Pacific Owls decided to get low to raise their game last night.
Fourth-ranked MPI turned up the defensive intensity, digging up difficult balls at will in a 25-17, 19-25, 25-19, 25-20 win over ‘Iolani in Interscholastic League of Honolulu second-round action.
"(We said) nothing hits the floor, and everyone was encouraging everyone," said Owls senior hitter Kaili Ayers, who posted a team-high 12 kills. "It was a really good day for our team."
The Owls were coming off a 25-12, 25-20, 25-13 lambasting at the hands of No. 2 Punahou on Tuesday, and avenged a three-set loss to the Raiders to open ILH play in the first round.
Both teams are still in contention for the ILH’s second state tournament berth. But the Owls (12-4 ILH) could ill-afford an 0-2 start to the second round with three matches to play, and played like it with the support of a packed home crowd. Led by senior libero Taylor Yamamoto, the Owls made the Raiders earn every kill.
"We actually dug more balls than we usually do," MPI coach Vernon Podlewski said. "I think everybody made a choice that they’re gonna sacrifice with a run at the end of the season. Everybody’s working hard."
Junior hitter Kelly Nakandakari added nine kills and junior Camille Ganahl put down seven emotion-driven balls from the middle for MPI. Dual setters Shelbi Miyashiro and Jordan Dinardo combined for 34 assists.
‘Iolani coach Jenic Tumaneng nodded his respect over at the celebrating, green-clad hosts, who took the third and fourth sets convincingly once the Raiders tied it at 1.
"I think they’ve been one of the consistent teams throughout the whole year. Give credit to their girls keeping their composure and all that," Tumaneng said. "They’re a team, right now."
It was ‘Iolani’s opener in the second round. Tumaneng figured his team (9-6 overall) would still have a shot at states if it could finish with only two second-round losses in the ILH Division I round-robin gauntlet.
Mid-Pac claimed the first set thanks to some Raiders hitting woes and the Owls’ renewed commitment to defense.
‘Iolani evened things up at a set apiece after it turned an 18-18 tie in its favor with a 7-1 run spearheaded by sophomore Loxley Keala (13 kills, seven assists), who has evolved into a dual-threat hitter/setter for the Raiders.
The Owls shell-shocked the Raiders in the all-important third set with a 14-0 run to go up 16-3. But ‘Iolani didn’t fold, and made a game of it by pulling within five points before going down 2-1 overall.
Whatever fifth-set ideas the visitors entertained gradually faded as the Owls made use of their versatile offense to seize a permanent lead by the middle of the fourth frame. Five different Owls put down a kill in the set and ‘Iolani struggled to find the court with its swings until Keala heated up with three kills … but too late.
Sophomore middle Haley Robinson added 10 kills for ‘Iolani.
Kamehameha def Maryknoll 25-23, 25-10, 25-17
Punahou def. Sacred Hearts Academy 25-17, 25-14, 25-21
Hawaii Misson Academy def Christian Academy 25-15, 20-25, 25-22, 25-16