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Punahou opens ILH girls volleyball season with sweep of Kamehameha

                                Punahou’s Lulu Uluave took a swing against Kamehameha during Tuesday’s ILH opener at Punahou.
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Punahou’s Lulu Uluave took a swing against Kamehameha during Tuesday’s ILH opener at Punahou.

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Punahou beats Kamehameha in ILH girls volleyball opener

It didn’t take long for the legend of Tita Ahuna to make a difference in ILH volleyball once again.

In her debut as head coach at Punahou, the Buffanblu swept defending state champion Kamehameha 26-24, 25-19, 25-22 on Tuesday night at Hemmeter Fieldhouse. Lucky-Rose Williams and Lulu Uluave led the power surge with 13 kills apiece, and Uluave added three aces. Belle Iosua had nine kills and middle Grace Fiaseu added eight kills and three blocks for the Buffanblu.

“I’m happy to get the first one under my belt. We struggled in the first set, but throughout the match, we got better and better. Kamehameha’s a great team. They’re well coached and you can tell,” Ahuna said of her alma mater. “We were able to play steady, and I attribute that to these girls. They play with a lot of heart.”

Jaclyn Matias provided the poise and skill at setter that was crucial against a resilient Kamehameha squad. Matias finished with 41 assists and one kill. Libero Melie Vaioleti, daughter of former Hawaii football player Doug Vaioleti, led the back row.

“She’s smart, she’s athletic. I told her tonight, I need her leadership out there and it showed,” said Ahuna, who was a standout player at UH, and coached HPU to two NCAA Division II national crowns.

Maui Robins led the Warriors with 11 kills, two blocks and one ace. Nadia Koanui added seven kills and two aces, Adrianna Arquette tallied six kills, and Marley Roe was a supercharger with six kills and 10 assists.

Kamehameha was without its leading outside hitter, Devin Kahahawai, who is still with the U.S. national team for at least one more week, Warriors coach Chris Blake said.

The lead changed hands four times in the opening set before Punahou took control. The home team trailed 20-16 at one point before battling back. Uluave’s kill tied it at 24, Iosua’s kill gave Punahou the lead, and another Uluave kill gave Punahou a 1-0 lead. Uluave and Williams had six kills apiece.

The second set wasn’t quite so close. The Buffanblu trailed 8-6, then outscored the visitors 16-7. A balanced attack, along with a block by Iosua, helped Punahou open a 22-15 lead en route to a 2-0 lead in the match.

Williams had four kills in the second game, while Uluave, Iosua and Fiaseu chipped in three apiece.

Kamehameha started strong in set three with a 7-4 lead after Nadia Koanui’s ace, but the hosts went on a furious run. Uluave had three aces during a 12-1 blitzkrieg for a 16-8 lead. After a Warriors timeout, the Buffanblu extended the lead to nine points and remained in control at 21-13 after a block by Fiaseu.

Kamehameha rallied to within 22-18 and was at 24-22 after a block by Robins and a Punahou hitting error. However, Punahou went to Williams for the final kill to end the match.

The ILH is playing best-of-five matches for its entire regular season play.

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