As great a night as it was for the home team at Kekuhaupio Gym, Kamehameha doesn’t plan on coming back.
The top-ranked Warriors stuffed No. 4 Mid-Pacific 25-17, 25-21, 25-12 on senior night to move within one game of securing the Interscholastic League of Honolulu’s seeded berth to the state tournament on Maui.
Wins by both Kamehameha (18-0) and No. 2 Punahou (16-2) last night set up a showdown for ILH glory at the Buffanblu’s gym tomorrow at 4:30 p.m. Kamehameha, the first-round ILH champion, can win the league outright. Punahou, which clinched states via a three-set win over ‘Iolani, can force an additional playoff game for the seeded (top) berth with a victory over the Warriors.
That match would be played next week at Kamehameha, but the Warriors intend to close it out in hostile territory.
"We’re definitely going to have to prepare for a dogfight," Kamehameha coach Chris Blake said. "They’re going to be ready to play. We’ll have to bring our best match at their house."
Fourth-ranked Mid-Pacific (13-5) needed to beat the Warriors last night to stay in the hunt with Punahou for the second ILH state berth, but instead fell to 2-2 in the ILH second round to drop out of postseason contention.
The Owls enjoyed early leads in all three sets, only to give up big runs each time to the hosts. The lopsided third set was particularly disappointing for MPI coach Vernon Podlewski, whose players looked to be defeated well before the final point. The visitors to Kapalama were sent packing in under an hour.
"We just slacked," Podlewski said. "We came up here, and didn’t like coming up here to play, I guess."
Kamehameha honored its four seniors — three players and a team manager — by surrounding them in a traditional postgame circle and singing the alma mater.
Senior middle Talia Jardin-Fermantez was particularly effective as she posted seven kills and seven blocks. With MPI threatening with a 5-0 run to pull within 24-21 in the second set, she had the deciding point by winning a joust at the net.
"I’m proud of my team that we played for each other tonight," said a lei-clad Jardin-Fermantez. "The first thing we noticed (about MPI) is that they move their hitters around a lot. So Coach did a good job of utilizing our different blockers and getting some of the girls in to set up the good blocking. He also mixed up the back row, too. Put in players who he knew could get those balls."
Blake told the crowd, "Talia is a beast," on the gym’s P.A. system after the match.
Junior opposite Misty Ma’a posted a team-high eight kills for Kamehameha. Four other players had four or more kills as the slow starts gave way to the usual: effective strikes orchestrated at the fingertips of 6-foot-1 freshman setter Alohi Robins-Hardy (31 assists).
"Mid-Pac is a great team. I think we played well; they put us into a lot of bad positions," Blake said. "Our girls were resilient today and did very well, to fight back and do what we needed to do."
Middle Nicole Sniffen, libero Jackie Medeiros and manager Makamae Compoc Dela Cruz were the other Kamehameha seniors.
Senior hitter Kaili Ayers had a match-high nine kills for Mid-Pacific, which plays its final match of the season today vs. Maryknoll.