ILH Girls Volleyball
Damien rebounds to topple first-place Maryknoll


Thu, Apr 8, 2021 @ Maryknoll [ 6:15 pm ]

FINAL  1   2   3   4   5      
DMS (11-3) 25 17 25 - - 2
MS (12-2) 21 25 22 - - 1

MAKIKI — The last time that the Damien girls volleyball team lost back-to-back matches was in October of 2018.

The Monarchs weren't about to let that streak end Thursday night.

Four different players recorded at least six kills to help visiting Damien come away with a three-set win over previously-unbeaten Maryknoll at Clarence T.C. Ching Gymnasium. The set scores were 25-21, 17-25 and 25-22.

The win pushed the Monarchs to 4-1 in the Interscholastic League of Honolulu Division II standings, while the Spartans fell to 5-1.

"A lot of fight, lots of character," Damien coach Reagan Agena said when asked what he saw out of his team Thursday.

"We work hard and just trying to fall back on the training that we're doing and just everybody really stepped up. They played for each other really tonight so it was kind of exciting to see," added Agena, whose team was coming off of a 25-18, 25-21 loss against Hawaii Baptist Tuesday.

Del Kalulu-Sugai, who splits her time between setter and outside hitter, recorded 15 assists, to go along with six kills. She also had two of her team's three service aces; the other belonged to sophomore outside hitter Aiyanie Park, who put down a team-high eight kills.

"We're kind of young, we're all still learning, we're all trying to still get our bond together, but with this whole COVID thing it's kind of hard for us because we're all going school different times, so coach just tells us to trust the process and work as a team and that's how we win," said Kalulu-Sugai, one of a half-dozen seniors for the Monarchs.

The rest of their roster is made us of two freshmen, four sophomores and one junior. That has meant a return to basics, Agena said, despite the fact that Damien is, technically, the reigning D2 state champion — although that title was won in October of 2019.

"We're just looking at a lot of that mental stuff that we're trying to make sure we're getting set in and making sure that we're doing the right things and being in the correct spots and what we're assigned to see and stuff like that, just making sure our vision is progressing with the plays as well," Agena explained.

The Monarchs' youth was evident early on in Thursday's match, as Maryknoll's Paige Nakanelua opened the night with a pair of aces for the Spartans. Eventually, however, Agena's squad settled in and used an 8-1 run to turn an 18-15 deficit into a 23-19 advantage. Five straight points came with Kalulu-Sugai serving, including an ace to give her team the lead for good at 19-18.

Maryknoll pulled to within 24-21 after a kill by Avery Perreira, but an unfavorable bounce on the ensuing serve gave Damien the opening set when Park's serve-receive went over the outstretched hands of Kalulu-Sugai and down on the Spartans' side of the floor.

Although there were seven ties in game two, Maryknoll never trailed in the set and used a 7-2 run to create separation. After a Spartan attack error cut their lead to 13-12, Perreira put down back-to-back kills to ignite the run, which was capped by Mackenzie Masoe's kill down the line from the right side that made it a 20-14 lead.

Damien got to within 21-17 after kills by Kody Wengler and Park, but the hosts finished off set two with four straight points, capped off by a Perreira tip from the left side on set point.

Things did not start off well in game three for the Monarchs, who quickly fell behind 4-0 after Nakanelua served up a couple more aces. Kalulu-Sugai said that serve-receive was a point of emphasis in practice Wednesday after her team struggled in that regard against HBA the day before.

"At practice that's all we pretty much worked on was serve-receive, because our last game they served us off pretty much," she said. "We didn't really play that good (against HBA) because we didn't have practice, so (Wednesday) we had a long practice, hard practice, so it was good."

But the Monarchs stormed back to pull ahead, 9-8, after a three attack errors by the Spartans in a span of five points. They stretched it to a 15-13 advantage on an ace by Park.

Maryknoll evened the score at 20 with a kill by Ciera Simmonds, but Kalulu-Sugai went off the block and out to reclaim the lead for Damien. She then set-up Park for a roll shot from the left side before serving up an ace to force a timeout by the Spartans with the score at 23-20.

A few points later, Simmonds pushed a kill — her seventh of the third set — to pull her team within 24-20. However, the ensuing Maryknoll serve — after Agena called a timeout — sailed long and out to end the match.

Agena credited his coaching staff and hitters for making the right in-game adjustments, particularly with their craftiness in the third set.

"I thought the coaching staff did a pretty good job as far as the scouting and we were able to see what they were doing for defense and we talked to the hitters as far as what's available, what's open and so they did a good job being able to make those adjustments," he said.

Damien's presence at the net, although responsible for only three team blocks, slowed down a number of attacks for Maryknoll, which committed 18 hitting errors.

"Coach just said go straight over and just get little touches — he doesn't want us to reach — so that helped us a lot," explained Kalulu-Sugai, who had four kills and no attack errors in the third set.

Agena and the Monarchs are banking on Kalulu-Sugai's experience and leadership, especially given the fact that her fellow senior, Heavenly Campbell, is out for the season due to injury.

"It's her last go-around and she lost a lot of last season, luckily for us she was able to come back in the ILH final and then make that run in the state tournament, so she's just trying to relish and take advantage of every opportunity she gets," Agena said of Kalulu-Sugai, who goes by the nickname, Kaulana.

Wengler, a freshman, posted seven kills and sophomore Tiani Souza chipped in with six in the victory; each was involved in a block as well.

The Monarchs committed 13 attack errors and three service errors.

The Spartans, who had one just block for the match, managed seven aces but also had seven errors from the end line.

Simmonds finished with a match-high 15 kills, Perreira had eight and Staecia Silogau seven in the loss. Nakanelua distributed 23 assists and had four aces.

Agena was an assistant to former coach Don Faumuina on Damien's D2 state championship-winning team in 2019. That season the team lost their first match in ILH play before going on to win their final 16 contests, so Agena is well-aware of the opportunities that lay ahead for his squad. Even with no state tournament to look forward to, the ILH will still crown a league champion this spring.

"I'd like to think it's a good motivator seeing that we can definitely battle back and especially after that HBA loss and then now for us to be able to get pushed by a really great (Maryknoll) team that did a lot of good stuff and put a lot of pressure on us," Agena said.

Damien, which pulled into a tie with HBA for second place Thursday — one-half game behind first-place Maryknoll — will host Saint Andrew's Tuesday before it begins the second half of the 12-game regular season at La Pietra Thursday.

"It's such a crash course of us just because of the timing," Agena said. "Everybody's working super hard in the gym and just a lot to learn, a lot to digest and now to apply all of that instruction, so overall everybody's progressing kind of as we planned and we're still going to get some bumps and bruises along the way, so I think we're in a pretty good place, I think."

The teams will play again on May 4 at Damien.

The Spartans, who were coming off of a three-set win at Hanalani Tuesday, will have a span of 12 days until their next match on Apr. 20 at Sacred Hearts.

Reach Kalani Takase at [email protected].

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