The Bulldogs are no longer underdogs.
Le Jardin defeated defending champion Hawaii Baptist, 14-25, 25-19, 25-22, 15-25, 15-7, to deliver the Kailua-based school its first state title at the New City Nissan Division II girls' volleyball tournament.
"It feels absolutely amazing," said senior outside hitter Kassidy Naone, who led her team with 14 kills. "This is what we've been working for since the beginning and it's the first title ever for Le Jardin. When I say this, I speak for the other seniors, we're so happy that we were able to leave something behind for the school."
The title is an astounding feat for Le Jardin (14-3), which made its state debut last year, only to fall to the Eagles (14-2) in last year's title game. The Eagles' only losses this season were to the Bulldogs.
"This year, we were able to get it done," Le Jardin coach Lee Lamb said. "So super excited for the girls, the program, everybody."
The epic match lasted two hours, six minutes at the Blaisdell Center Arena. The Le Jardin faithful were standing at match point with HBA's Naiya Fujikawa serving with the Bulldogs leading 14-7. Nina Krupa, a senior setter/outside hitter, dumped a one-hander over the net onto an empty spot on the floor for the game-winner.
"We have so much support, we feel anything is possible," Krupa said. "When I saw them standing, I couldn't help but smile. These people I go to school with everyday are going to be here for me. If they believe in me, I have to believe in myelf."
At the outset, it appeared the Eagles were on their way, taking the first set handily, 25-14.
But in the second and third sets, Le Jardin's serving took over, as the Eagles could not get off any decent passes to mount attacks.
"At that point, we just didn't play well," HBA coach Myles Shioji said. "That's the reality of it. Le Jardin did a lot of things to get us out of our system. That's a great testament to the coaching staff there. We lost our focus for a bit and, unfortunately, it cost us."
Le Jardin had five aces in the second set, three by Naone and two by Arianna Lunow-Luke. Naone's third ace was set point.
"We were serving a lot more aggressive in (sets) two and three," Lamb said. "I felt we fell off in four and five was OK. We just got more aggressive (in sets two and three). The balls were more flatter, a little more velocity on them and four, it fell off."
Added Krupa: "We had this new serving nomenclature where we had words mean different things and try to be strategic where we were serving."
The third set was pivotal. Le Jardin took seven-point leads on three occasions before a 6-0 run by HBA pulled the Eagles to within 22-21. But the Bulldogs kept their composure to finish off the Eagles to take a 3-1 lead.
Hawaii Baptists' Keri Lum single-handedly kept her team alive in the fourth set when she planted eight of her match-high 28 kills.
But the Bulldogs opened the deciding set with two 4-0 runs in taking a commanding 8-2 lead. All HBA could do was pull to within seven on three occasions before being put away by Krupa's dump shot.
Krupa, named the most outstanding player of the tournament, shared duties setting with Kailey Suezaki. Each had 18 assists. Krupa had been originally the regular setter, but when one of the HBA players was unable to make a California trip early in the season, players had to move around to cover other positions and Krupa had to do some outside hitter duties.
"Things work out sometimes," Lamb said. "We had to move the lineup around a little bit, give Kailey a chance to come in and set the ball and gave Nina a chance to swing. We really liked what we saw, so we tried to move that forward."
Krupa relished the extra duties.
"It's exciting to contribute in different ways," Krupa said.
DIVISION II All-Tournament Team:
Keri Lum, Hawaii Baptist
Julia Fisher, Le Jardin
Shelby Capllonch, Damien
Arianna Lunow-Luke, Le Jardin
Kassidy Naone, Le Jardin
Ally Wada, Hawaii Baptist
Kailey Young, Hawaii Baptist
Most Outstanding Player: Nina Krupa, Le Jardin
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