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Prep Football Preview Special
Prep Football Preview
Game of the Week
Kalani Takase | ScoringLiveNovember 24, 2021, 9:21pm
Wed, Nov 24, 2021 @ Farrington [ 5:30 pm ]
KALIHI — Shereya Ufuti put down a match-high 11 kills to help Kaiser sweep past Campbell 25-12, 25-19 and 25-16 in a first-round match of the Oahu Interscholastic Association Division I girls volleyball tournament Wednesday night.
A crowd of about 200 fans at Farrington's Richard Kitamura saw the Cougars, the fifth seed out of the Eastern Division, improve to 6-5 and advance to Monday's quarterfinal round, where they will face undefeated and fourth-ranked Moanalua (10-0) with a state tournament berth at stake.
The West fourth-seeded Sabers saw their season end with a 5-6 record.
Kaiser fifth-year coach Kainoa Downing was pleased with the workmanlike outing from his young team.
"The girls played the simple volleyball that we need to play to be effective," said Downing, whose roster is comprised of two seniors, five juniors, four sophomores and one freshman.
Downing disclosed that the Cougars had no scouting report of any kind on Campbell, which had won three of its final four games to close out the regular season after an 0-3 start to the year.
"Nothing at all," he divulged when asked how much he knew about the Sabers going into the match.
"Just that they were better than us in the West side, so we had to respect them because the West is doing good. We came in worrying about our side more than the other side," Downing said.
Ultimately, Campbell's struggles in the passing game — as evidenced by Kaiser's 12 service aces — never allowed it to get into a rhythm offensively.
Libero Macy Matsushima recorded five of the Cougars' aces; Hiwa Agbayani had three, along with 15 assists, and Ufuti chipped in a couple more aces. She also had nine assists along with her double-digit kills.
"I'm very proud of us," said Ufuti, a 5-foot-8 sophomore outside hitter/setter. "We came out and really focused and played our game. We were very smart with our ball placement and we really worked as a team, I feel like. We helped each other out when times got rough, so I'm very proud of us — just very proud of my teammates and very proud to be a Cougar."
Kylie Kobayashi had back-to-back kills that were part of a 5-0 Kaiser run early in the opening set. Campbell got to within 14-11 after a Carah Passion kill from the left side, but Kobayashi's third kill of the set sparked a 10-0 run by the Cougars that included three aces by Matsushima.
Ufuti finished off set 1 with an attack that hit the tape and fell on the other side of the net — just behind a pair of Sabers' blockers — to give Kaiser the set, 25-12.
The Sabers stormed out to a 10-4 lead in set 2 after an 8-1 run that included a pair of double-blocks by Kiana Aniya and Taleyah Akiona-Pasion. The Cougars, however, got back in it with a 6-1 run to get within a point at 11-10. They separated with an 8-0 run that turned a 14-12 deficit into a 20-14 advantage that they did not relinquish.
Aniya served up her lone ace of the match — and one of four total for the Sabers — to pull her team to within 24-19, but her subsequent serve sailed long and gave Kaiser a two-games-to-none lead in the best-of-5 match.
Campbell went on a 7-1 run in set 3 to take an 11-9 lead, but Valo Sopoaga answered with a kill that started a 6-1 run by the Cougars that culminated with an ace by Agbayani. A few points later, the Sabers called timeout, trailing 17-13. However, Matsushima served up another ace out of the break.
Campbell was within four points of Kaiser with a kill by Aniya to make it 19-15, but the Cougars closed out the match with a 6-1 run. After back-to-back aces from Ufuti, she served long to make the score 24-16. On match point, Matsushima put up a bump set to Sopoga, who found the floor for her fifth kill of set 3; Sopoaga also had a solo block in the set.
"We have a lot of talented players on our team — I don't mean that in a boastful kind of way — but we all have a lot of talent and we just feed off of each other," Ufuti said. "It's kind of a give-and-take kind of deal with our energy, so one person does good, we all do good."
Downing said that given his team's abundance of youth, he is especially keen on working toward a balanced offensive attack.
"Yeah, that's what we're gonna do; I'm not gonna go to one person," Downing said. "We've got too many good enough players that can do a good enough job, so we're sharing the load."
Sopoaga's six kills were second to Ufuti's 11. Luna Ann Brown and Kobayashi recorded five kills apiece and Sanaia Kipapa and Leilani Fesuluai Robinson added two kills each.
"We're just a young team that's trying to learn how to play in the system and having confidence in doing the things that we're asking them to do and they're slowly getting it," said Downing, who did not use a single timeout in Wednesday's match — even when the Sabers went on scoring runs and held leads early in sets 2 and 3.
"I want them to gain confidence in themselves and they have to learn how to do it themselves, don't depend on a coach or anyone else, so I'm proud of them," Downing explained. "We're just a young group and these girls, most of them — I only have two that (are returnees) — so they just gotta learn me and what I want them to do that helps them to be effective."
Ufuti said the players knew what was needed in those instances that Downing and the coaching staff didn't need to interject.
"First, we had to settle down," she said. "We got everything relaxed and calm again and then we just had to focus and play our game. We were in a scramble mode and we were letting them take our mistakes and use it to benefit them, but we came back again and helped each other and it worked out."
The Cougars helped themselves at the service line, where they had only eight errors — four fewer than the numbers of aces they had.
"We served good and you know the game: you gotta serve and pass," Downing said. "So if you can serve, you can help our defense — we don't have a huge block — so serving's the key."
Kaiser had just two team blocks to Campbell's five. Akiona-Pasion had the Sabers' lone solo block, as well as four block assists. Aniya tallied three block assists along with a team-high eight kills. Anela Ahsing put down five kills and Marlayina Masani notched 10 assists in the loss.
The Cougars finished out the regular season with losses in three of their final four contests, but did manage to take a set off of sixth-ranked Kahuku six days prior to Wednesday's game against Campbell.
"I think it really pushed us," Ufuti said of the four-set loss to the Red Raiders last Thursday. "You know, we're lucky enough to have the opportunity to be in playoffs and we really wanted to go out with a bang, make it count so we really worked hard, as we should always."
The win over the Sabers sets up a rematch with Moanalua, who swept Kaiser in the regular season by a score of 25-17, 25-19, 25-19 back on Oct. 21.
"Even though we lost, it was very fun and it was a challenging game, so we're excited and looking forward to it," Ufuti added.
Downing is optimistic that his team can make it a game when the teams meet at the Moanalua gymnasium Monday night.
"We just gotta play good volleyball, not outstanding or anything," he cautioned. "We're talented enough that if we play good volleyball — it's gonna be hard to beat them — but I think if we can jump it up a little bit we can challenge them better than the first time."
But before the Cougars look ahead to Monday's quarterfinal round of the OIA tournament, they expressed their gratitude in the spirit of Thanksgiving.
"I'm thankful for being able to play volleyball and being able to be a Cougar and I'm thankful for my family and all my Ohana," Ufuti said.
Downing chimed in as well, when asked what he is thankful for: "The life that we have and the aloha spirit we still control here in Hawaii," he said.
In other OIA Division I first-round matches Wednesday night, Farrington swept Pearl City, Waianae did the same to McKinley and Kalani held off Nanakuli in four sets.
The Governors (9-2) will face West No. 2 seed Mililani (9-1) at 5:30 p.m. Monday at Moanalua, which will be followed by the Kaiser-Moanalua match.
West top-seeded Kapolei (10-0) will host the Falcons (8-3) in the nightcap of a quarterfinal doubleheader Monday. The Seariders (9-2) will face East second-seed Kahuku (9-1) in the early match at Kapolei.
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