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Prep Football Preview Special
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Game of the Week
Kalani Takase | ScoringLiveMay 13, 2021, 11:03pm
Thu, May 13, 2021 @ Maryknoll [ 5:00 pm ]
MAKIKI — The most unusual and unprecedented of girls volleyball seasons in the Interscholastic League of Honolulu proved to be a banner year for the Maryknoll Spartans.
With Thursday night's sweep of Hawaii Baptist in the Division II championship match, Maryknoll put the finishing touches on a 12-2 record and the very first ILH title in program history.
"It's exciting, to say the least," said first-year coach Kalepa Feguis, whose team recorded a 25-20, 25-19 win over the visiting Eagles at the Spartans' Clarence T.C. Ching Gymnasium.
Maryknoll won their final five matches of the year and avenged a loss at HBA in late April that helped Feguis's squad turn the corner.
"It definitely changed the way we practiced, I'm not going to lie, because it allowed the coaches to instill more teaching and the girls to listen a lot more because we weren't as big-headed as we might have been walking into other games," he explained.
"We got back into the gym, we worked harder — (HBA) beat us in two sets, they're the only team to beat us in two sets — so it was a big deal for us."
The Spartans were also without the services of senior opposite Staecia Silofau and junior middle blocker Kamryn Correa in that 25-20, 25-18 loss at the Eagles' Dan Liu Gymnasium on Apr. 27.
They were at full strength Thursday night, however.
"They make a big difference because of their leadership," Feguis said of Silofau and Correa. "Their leadership has a lot to do with what changes on the court — it's not always who puts the ball away, it's who we're comfortable with being on the court."
Not that there is a lack of leadership for the Spartans, who are well-represented by a double-digit senior class.
"Ten," Feguis noted. "Half the team."
The 2021 spring season was Maryknoll's first in D2. Its last two years in D1 produced an 0-11 record in 2018 and a 4-7 mark in 2019.
"We sent the seniors out in the right way," Feguis said.
Junior libero Rozalyn Cabuena expressed her gratitude to the departing seniors after their final match together.
"It feels great because we have so many role models and they push us and they just show us how to be a good person and they helped me grow as a player and I really love them and I'm gonna miss them so much," she said.
Cabuena anchored a steady defensive effort in the back row that limited the Eagles to only 15 total kills — eight of them coming from one player, junior outside hitter Hayley Taka.
"Tonight we just played for each other," said Cabuena, the daughter of the coach. "We went all the way, we went 110 percent and we didn't let any ball hit the floor and we were just very communicative with each other and it was great."
Dad was a bit critical of his team's back row defense.
"To be honest, we had some hiccups, just because I think we were more excited and nervous than anything else. I'd say it was a little bit below our average; we usually play a little bit better defense, but we were able to pull through when we needed to," Feguis dissected.
But there was no teetering when it came to the Spartans' energy level.
Maryknoll opened the match on a 12-1 run that included an eight-point serving run by Ashli Alcala-Romero and five kills from left-side hitter Ciera Simmonds. However, HBA stormed back with a 15-3 run that included four kills from Taka and tied it at 16 with a double-block by Sydney Hankey and Zoe Lorica.
Still, there was no drop off in the Spartans' spunk.
"It came from each other," Cabuena explained. "We just push each other to be as loud as we can, because the energy, it helps us grow, it helps us gain more points and work together better because we're communicating."
There was also no timeout from Feguis, whose team never fell behind the Eagles and closed out game one with a 9-4 run.
With 10 seniors on his team, Feguis hasn't had to use very many timeouts this season.
"In the losses I've probably used the two (timeouts) every time we lose, so I mean, I was comfortable today with the energy we were showing that we weren't going to have to use them and I didn't want to give HBA more time to think about what they had to do, because they're such a good team," Feguis said. "I feel like if we gave them too much time they may have pulled it out, you know? We never know."
After an HBA attack went long to open the second set, Maryknoll got back-to-back-to-back kills from freshman Avery Perreira to jump out to an early 4-0 lead. A kill by Silofau from the right side a few points later gave her team an 8-5 advantage, but the a tip kill by Kyle-Shyne Rivera-Kaahanui ignited a 6-0 run for the Eagles that saw them pull ahead, 11-8. Taka served up all three of her team's aces during the HBA run.
Once again, there was nary a timeout to be utilized by Feguis and the Spartans.
"We needed to let the bench players know that everybody has a role, whether it's to push the team with energy and help them build momentum back up, or pushing them at practice, everybody has their role, so the bench really pulled through for us — it was huge, they were very big with this win," he said.
The Eagles committed a service error, a double-contact violation and an attack error on consecutive plays, which led to a tide-turning 9-2 run for Maryknoll.
Shani Houghtailing put away her lone kill of the night on match point to complete the straight-set win.
Eleven of the Spartans' points in the set came off of HBA errors.
Simmonds recorded a match-high nine kills and Perreira put down seven. Paige Nakanelua tallied 14 assists and Haylee DePonte had three assists and an ace. Alcala-Romero had Maryknoll's two other service aces. Silofau (three kills) and Correa (one kill) teamed up on two blocks in the win.
It was the third meeting between the teams this season. Maryknoll won the first face-off back on March 30 by rallying to a 28-30, 25-15, 25-23 victory at T.C. Ching Gymnasium.
"I'm still in shock, to be honest," Feguis admitted. "I didn't expect to be here when we started this season, that's all I can say, but we did great."
The Spartans were the top seed in the seven-team ILH D2 single-elimination tournament and coming off of a three-set win over fifth-seeded Hanalani in Tuesday's semifinal round.
HBA, the No. 3 seed, was playing its third tournament match after recording a two-set win over sixth-seeded Sacred Hearts Saturday and rallying to a three-set victory over No. 2 seed Damien Tuesday.
With the league's D3 teams wrapping up play two weeks ago and its D1 schools concluding competition last week, Thursday's D2 final marked the end of the ILH volleyball season — one that was like no other in many ways: from the empty gyms, to the face coverings, not to mention the numerous other health and safety protocols. Teams did not change sides of the court in between sets, let alone exchange handshakes.
But for Maryknoll and its 10 seniors, it was all just perfect.
"You know, we're just blessed to have a season in the first place," Feguis said. "We didn't expect to have a season, so we gotta thank everybody that made it possible, including the athletic department. It's been different, to say the least."
HBA was seeking its first ILH championship since 2016, the final year of a three-year title run. It finished the spring season with a record of 11-4.
Girls volleyball is expected to be contested during its normal fall season for the 2021-'22 school year.
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