ILH Girls Volleyball
Kamehameha surges past Punahou to claim league crown


Tue, May 4, 2021 @ Punahou [ 6:30 pm ]

FINAL  1   2   3   4   5      
KSK (9-2) 25 25 0 - - 2
PUN (8-2) 22 20 0 - - 0

MAKIKI — This girls volleyball season was unlike any other for Chris Blake and the Kamehameha Warriors. The end result, however, was something quite similar: a league title.

Devin Kahahawai and Maui Robins combined for 18 kills and Kahiau Kaalele tallied 22 assists to lead Kamehameha to a 25-22, 25-20 win over host Punahou Tuesday at Christopher B. Hemmeter Fieldhouse.

The match served as the Division I championship for the Interscholastic League of Honolulu's COVID-adjusted schedule, which was pushed back from its original timeframe in the fall to this spring. The ILH was the only one of the HHSAA's five leagues to conduct a girls' volleyball season.

"It was definitely a challenge in many different ways, but I think what was similar was the way that the team was able to come together through adversity," said Blake, the longtime Warriors coach with 10 state championships to his name.

The challenges were numerous and not always familiar ones, but Blake credited his fellow coaches for finding a way to work through them.

"The staff did an exceptional job of making adjustments on the fly, because things were so fast and we weren't sure of how things were going to be going that we just kept on building," he said.

Among the players that Blake pointed out for their leadership were seniors Kaalele, Isha Knight, Jenesis Rios, Kanoelani Lindo and Hina Chow.

"I think it came down to senior leadership and performance so I think they did a great job of getting our team to be in this position," Blake said of his team's fifth straight ILH crown.

The position that the Warriors were in after two matches in 2021 was 1-1; they were swept by the Buffanblu in late March in the first of three meetings between the teams.

That was one of just two times Kamehameha (9-2) tasted defeat this season. There would be no third sampling Tuesday night.

"That was a great team win for us there and for us to come out on top, we're very blessed and stoked for our team and the seniors of our program," Blake said. "We wanted to make sure that we played together, played for our seniors and that match was one of our better ones this year, so we're happy to come out with a win."

Kaalele said the first result against Punahou provided all the motivation that her team needed going forward.

"I think the first loss, it showed things we needed to work on, so after that game we grinded really hard and worked on the little things and just tried to get everything in order to hopefully be able to beat them again," said Kaalele, a third-year player for the Warriors.

After biding her time as a reserve in each of her first two seasons with the team, Kaalele finally got her chance to take over the reins of the offense. Even if it wasn't quite the senior season that the 5-foot-10 Kaalele had always envisioned, she remains most appreciative of the opportunity to play at all.

"I'm just super thankful because in the beginning we didn't think we were going to have a season and then we found out we were and for it to end off like this, I'm just super happy and proud of my team and happy I got to play with the people I did," said Kaalele, who is signed to play at Menlo College next fall.

In her final prep volleyball match, Kaalele spread the love to her underclassmen teammates in junior pin hitters Kahahawai (10 kills) and Robins (8) and middles Moana Peaua (4), a sophomore, and Adrianna Arquette (3), a freshman.

"I just try to spread it because I know that if I set someone too much the blockers will just move towards that way, so I usually just try to spread it and it usually helps and to get one block up on Maui or Devin," Kaalele said.

"Kahiau, our setter, ran a great offense," said Blake, whose team committed just nine attack errors.

But the Warriors were far from running on all cylinders early on. Kahahawai, their prized 6-foot-2 outside hitter, committed three attack errors before she picked up her first kill of the match, which tied the score at 10 apiece in set one.

Kamehameha pulled ahead, 14-10, after consecutive kills by Robins, however, Punahou answered with an 8-3 run to take the lead at 18-17. The teams were tied at 19 before the visitors closed out the opening set with a 6-3 run, capped by Kaalele's solo block on set point.

The teams went back and forth for much of game two, but the Warriors took the lead for good just as Kahahawai was warming up. Her second kill in a span of four points gave her team a 10-9 lead. On the very next play, Kaalele fed Robins, who went off the block and out.

Kamehameha took its largest lead of the second set at 23-17 after Kahahawai rocketed a shot from the right side down the line, off of a backset from Kaalele.

"We talk about end-game being our game," Blake said. "We want to make sure that we're executing as best as we can in the last part, but we talked about balance, we talked about staying calm, we talked about breathing and through that process they were able to stay in control and when we're in control of ourselves, it's difficult for us to be toppled over and I think they found a way to come together, especially when it got tight, but they stuck together and they played together, they played loose and that helped us to be able to come out on top."

Knight's second kill of match gave the Warriors match point and after a service error, Punahou was called for reaching over the net and attacking the set to end the match.

"Hats off to Punahou, they put us into a lot of bad spots in both game one and game two, so we're happy to come out on top," Blake said. "The players definitely deserve it and I'm proud of them."

Belle Iosua and Lucky-Rose Williams paced the Buffanblu with seven kills apiece. Williams also had three block assists, while Grace Fiaseu added two block assists and four kills in the loss. Jaclyn Matias registered 21 assists and three kills and Halo Yoshiki chipped in with three kills.

Robins and Arquette each had a solo block for Kamehameha, which finished with five team blocks to four for Punahou.

The teams split their prior two meetings this season. The Buffanblu won the first time — at Hemmeter Fieldhouse — by a score of 25-16 and 25-18. The Warriors won the rematch — at Kekuhaupio Gymnasium — 25-18 and 26-24.

"For us to make those kind of adjustments, our players found a way and took it to heart to make those kind of changes and for us to come together, it takes a while for our process to get together and figure out what we're doing within our scheme … the girls just responded and came out with a very good game today," Blake said.

The teams also ended the last prep volleyball season, back in 2019, against each other, when Kamehameha topped Punahou in four sets in the state championship match.

The scenario could play itself out yet again next fall, when girls volleyball returns to its normal scheduling — that's the hope, anyway.

"Hopefully. I think there was a lot of growing for a lot of our players. Again, it comes down to we believe we play for those who come before us, those who are with us now and those who are going to follow in our footsteps and the senior class of every year seems to take that into account and knowing that we have a quick turnaround is important," Blake said.

He went on, "You know, for our freshmen that we've got, they're freshmen and-a-half, right? We got them toward the end part of their freshman year, but the amount of growth and maturity that they showed and the team showed as we continued to grow and grind after it every day in practice was amazing and we'll definitely enjoy this, however, knowing that we're going to have our work cut out for us and having to perform a lot better if and when we start up again in the fall."
As for Kaalele, while she will be embarking on her own collegiate volleyball journey in the not-so-distant future, she can't wait to see what the future holds in store for the teammates that she will leave behind.

"I'm super excited for this team," Kaalele said. "This is a really good group of girls and I'm excited to see what they can do next season."

Reach Kalani Takase at [email protected].

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