HHSAA Girls Volleyball
Punahou downs Mililani to advance to D1 final


Fri, Oct 25, 2019 @ Moanalua [ 7:00 pm ]

FINAL  1   2   3   4   5      
PUN (13-3) 25 25 25 - - 3
MIL (14-2) 22 12 20 - - 0
Kill: F. Danielson (MIL) 18 kills
Blk: I. Iosua (PUN) 4 blk
Ast: J. Matias (PUN) 35 ast

SALT LAKE — The middle was where No. 2 Punahou cashed in Friday night.

Middle blockers Grace Fiaseu and Isabelle Iosua combined for a .412 hitting percentage and 4 1/2 of their team's eight total blocks to lead the Buffanblu to a 25-22, 25-12 and 25-10 sweep of previously-unbeaten Mililani in the semifinals of the New City Nissan Division I Girls Volleyball State Championships.

Punahou (13-2), the Interscholastic League of Honolulu runner-up, hit .316 for the match to .145 for Oahu Interscholastic Association champion Mililani (14-1).

Fiaseu, a 6-foot freshman, recorded 10 kills on 17 swings with two errors, while Iosua, a 6-foot sophomore, had five kills on 12 swings and did not commit an attack error.

"We're more than happy with our middles," Buffanblu coach Tanya Fuamatu-Anderson said. "We knew that we needed to get our middles involved because Mililani is resilient. I mean, we've watched a ton of games on them and they tend to come back. They chip away with one dig here, one dig there, a hit off the block, tip here, tip there, and so we needed to make sure we had an answer for it, as well as having our outsides ready to attack."

Punahou's outsides produced as well. Kaia Dunford posted a team-high 12 kills and hit .286 with six digs and fellow-senior Madisyn Beirne tallied seven kills with seven digs and hit .353.

Sophomore setter Jaclyn Matias recorded 35 assists, seven digs and three kills. She shared setting duties for much of the season with senior Chloe Kaahanui, but has seized control of the starting job, according to Fuamatu-Anderson.

"Jackie definitely runs a different tempo on the offense. She's slotted in right now as our starter because we're able to get the middles involved and have them be successful in the middle, not just run the middles — they're able to get kills, able to cause disruption on the other side — so we're very happy with what Jackie's doing now," Fuamatu-Anderson said.

The opening set saw the Buffanblu take the lead for good early on. They held a 19-13 lead after a back-handed dink on the second touch by Matias, but Mililani answered with a 6-1 run capped by a Falanika Danielson kill to get within 21-20. Punahou came back to score four of the final six points to close out the set.

Dunford camped out at the service line during an 8-0 run in set 2 that turned an 8-7 deficit into a 15-8 Buffanblu lead that they never relinquished. They hit .414 and were aided by nine attack errors by the Trojans in the set.

Of Punahou's five blocks in game 2, Iosua was in on three of them.

"We needed to score points in blocking, we needed to score points from the serving line; we had to take care of business," Fuamatu-Anderson said.

Punahou trailed 12-11 in the third set, but went on an 8-2 run that included a pair of Fiaseu kills. Mililani got to within 24-20 on Danielson's 18th kill of the match, but a hitting error — their 20th overall — ended the match.

The Buffanblu registered four aces against six service errors, while the Trojans had just one ace and seven errors.

Punahou was near flawless on serve-receive, which translated into a balanced offensive attack at Matias' disposal.

"We had some great defense and out-of-transition passing and also serve-receive," Matias said. "We started to have a little shakiness at times during the match, but we came back from that and we really need to get our middles involved because they're a big key to our offense."

Fiaseu credited libero Katharine Yoshimoto, as well as backrow specialists Tiara Kimsel Moe and Haylie Marumoto for feeding Matias with well-placed passes.

"They passed it up for us, we got good sets from Jackie and me and (Iosua) just put it away," Fiaseu said. "Jackie is doing a great job with us. She's getting comfortable setting me and (Iosua) a lot, so that's what's helping us."

Matias said the Buffanblu put an emphasis on capitalizing on their distinct size advantage over the shorter Trojans.

"We knew that we'd have a smaller block up on us, but they were still very scrappy, so we made sure to place our balls and try to work with our middles the best we could," Matias said.

Mariah Fukumoto had 10 digs and Aysia Miller notched 26 assists and six digs for the second-seeded Trojans, who will play No. 5 Moanalua for third place at 2 p.m. Saturday.

Punahou reached the state title match in each of Fuamatu-Anderson's first two seasons as coach. They won it all in 2014, but missed out on qualifying for the state tournament in each of the next four seasons.

Until this year.

"These girls got a lot of fire and it doesn't take a lot of them to get fired up," Fuamatu-Anderson said. "When we get into our team meetings they already know what they want to do and so, I mean, that's more than half the battle for us coaches, so we're very proud of them."

The Buffanblu will face a familiar foe in No. 1 Kamehameha in Saturday's championship match. The teams have met three times this year, most recently in the ILH final two weeks ago, which the Warriors claimed via sweep for their fourth league title in a row.

"We are very excited to have a rematch against them and show what we can truly do," Matias said. "Last match we had a little bit of an off-game, so we're hoping to just come back from that and hopefully win the state championship."

First serve is scheduled for approximately 7 p.m. at the Neal S. Blaisdell Center Arena.

Reach Kalani Takase at [email protected].

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