Fri, Oct 11, 2019 @ Punahou [ 6:30 pm ]
MAKIKI — Kamehameha's arduous path to its fourth consecutive Interscholastic League of Honolulu Division I girls championship was capped by a workmanlike sweep of the state's top-ranked team Friday night.
A crowd of about 500 fans packed into a steamy Christopher B. Hemmeter Fieldhouse to witness the third-ranked Warriors come away with a stunning 25-15, 25-17, 25-16 road win over host Punahou.
While the Buffanblu (10-2) had six days off since their last match, the Warriors (12-2) were playing their fourth game in a span of five days. Along the way, Kamehameha tallied victories over Mid-Pacific, No. 2 Iolani and No. 8 Le Jardin to set-up Friday's final.
"It was a good opportunity for us," Kamehameha coach Chris Blake said. "Punahou, they were sitting for a while, waiting and for us, the week of the grind was good for us. I think it put us into a good spot, you know, we had to fight hard Monday, Tuesday especially, and Wednesday, but we had a good day of practice (Thursday) and I think we were able to do a lot of things that put (the Buffanblu) into bad spots and we're happy to come out with a three-set sweep."
Both losses for the the Buffanblu this season have come at the hands of Kamehameha; the other, however, was a five-set nail-biter at Kekuhaupio Gymnasium. Friday's night was nothing like that.
The Warriors tallied only three aces — two of them by Bryanne Soares — but served tough enough to keep the Buffanblu out of system for much of the night. When Punahou was able to execute first passes on serve-receive and get decent looks for their hitters, Kamehameha often slowed down the attacks at the net with a steady block.
"We put them into a lot of bad spots, but our serving tactics through coach Daryl (Tamashiro), the things that he was doing, our girls hitting their spots and then execution," Blake said. "We're happy with how they played but it came down the little things to make things work."
That made for a relatively easy night of work for Kamehameha's Tara De Sa. The senior libero dug a lot of routine balls in the win, but she also made a few spectacular ones that the Warriors were able to convert into points at key times of the match.
"When they're out of system the balls don't come as hard, the balls are like lobs and they're easier to dig and easier to get," said De Sa, who was stellar against Iolani star outside hitter and All-Hawaii Player of the Year Elena Oglivie in Tuesday's win over Iolani.
Soares, a senior setter, was the biggest beneficiary of De Sa's efficiency in the back row. She was able to spread out her 31 assists with a varied attack. Devin Kahahawai recorded a match-high 13 kills, Keonilei Akana and Noelle Sua-Godinet had eight each and Maui Robins chipped in with seven.
"Tara really saved us," Soares said. "We saw her, in that Iolani match save us in those five sets and in the end game and she really helped us dictating our defense. She really helped me out in the front row. She was huge digging up balls for me and also helping with our coverage with our hitters — that really helped them to know that we have their back — and they can swing away at any time."
Blake explained that with much of the defense being funneled to De Sa, it often makes for a rather ho-hum dig and transition.
"She's always been lights out and the thing is, you don't see it too much because she's not getting all those kills, but her serve-receive, her defense, it's allows for us to make sure we continue to play very effectively and it's all because some of the things that she does anchoring our defense," Blake said.
Punahou had nearly as many kills (20) as it did attack errors (17).
Kaia Dunford posted six kills, Madisyn Beirne five and Halo-Elizabeth Yoshiki four for the Buffanblu.
"I thought our defense was pretty solid today, better than usual," De Sa said. "It's just practice; we work on it in the gym every day and we have strong hitters so we get better just digging them every day."
Kamehameha opened the match by winning the first four points and then reeled off an 8-0 run before eventually running away with the first set. Kahahawai, Akana and Sua-Godinet had three kills apiece in the set. Soares said it was a point to feed Sua-Godinet in the middle early and often.
"We really try to run our middles, because even from past years with Braelyn (Akana) and Kalina (Obrey), we're really strong with our middle and we know if we keep working with them we'll definitely get there and we'll definitely run our offense better and it helps our pins (outside hitters) out to spread it out as well," Soares said.
With Soares at the service line, the Warriors went on a 7-0 run early in game 2 to take an 8-1 lead. The run included back-to-back aces by Soares.
"I was just focused on hitting my spot to keep the other side out of system so we could run our defense and then convert into a good play," Soares said.
Akana sandwiched a pair of kills from the left side around a solo block by Punahou's Isabelle Iosua to close out the second set.
Game 3 was tied at 5 early on, but Kamehameha went on a 6-0 run that included blocks on three consecutive plays. Later in the set, Soares appeared to notch what would have been her lone kill of the match after she found the back right corner of the court with her two-hand push that caught the Buffanblu defense by surprise. However, the linesman did not appear to see the play as he was attempting to flee oncoming Punahou players and the top referee determined that the point would be replayed.
"I know that there's sometimes that they can't help it — it's a bad angle — I understand that because sometimes it goes in our favor, but it really showed us that we can't rely on the refs to give us our calls, we really need to rely on our good play," Soares said. "It definitely fueled me to push and finish."
The Warriors did just that, closing out the set and the match by scoring six of the final eight points.
"We believe that we have to make sure that we're growing every day and I think we challenge our kids in our gym to grow and to play better, so it was a great team win for us although it doesn't necessarily show because we had about eight or nine kids that played, (but) that was for everybody on there because without having those kids in our gym on Thursday, we wouldn't be able to have that kind of success," Blake said.
De Sa said it was important that the team get out to a hot start, but also to finish.
"I think going five sets with them in our last game, we just knew we had to come out firing and we didn't want it to be a close one and drag it out until the end, so we just came out firing and wanted to end the game fast," De Sa said.
After four matches in five days, Kamehameha will now have 12 days off before it opens play in the quarterfinals of the New City Nissan State Championships on Oct. 24. It will have the ILH's seeded berth and a first-round bye in the 12-team tournament.
Punahou was seeking its first league title since 2012. It will host a first-round opponent to be determined on Oct. 21.
Le Jardin will be the ILH's third representative in the state tournament.
Prior to the Division-I match, Damien defeated University Lab in four sets to claim the league's D2 crown.