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Prep Football Preview Special
Kalani Takase | ScoringLiveSeptember 28, 2022, 6:12am
Tue, Sep 27, 2022 @ Leilehua [ 7:00 pm ]
WAHIAWA — The 10th-ranked Mililani girls volleyball team got the gut check it needed Tuesday night.
Alexis Rodriguez and LC Nakagawa recorded four kills apiece in the deciding fifth set to help the visiting Trojans to a reverse sweep of host Leilehua before a crowd of about 500 fans at Paul T. Kobayashi Gymnasium. The set scores were 21-25, 20-25, 27-25, 25-22 and 15-13.
The narrow victory pushed Mililani to 7-0 on the season. It can lock up a first-round bye in next month's Oahu Interscholastic Association Division I tournament with a win over Waianae Thursday night.
"It's like at times you take teams for granted, but we knew — I mean, the coaches knew but I don't know about the girls — that Leilehua was a good team," Mililani coach Val Crabbe said of the Mules, who fell to 6-2 and saw their five-match win streak come to an end.
"I mean, they were 6-1. They only lost to Campbell, so it's a big win, for sure," Crabbe noted.
The Trojans had dropped just two sets all regular season in the Western Division. They had won their last 14 sets — including a road sweep of previously-undefeated Kapolei last Thursday — but dropped the first two sets against the upset-minded Mules.
"Win or lose — I mean, I would have rather had the win, yeah — but you know what, their performance, I mean, I can't complain," Leilehua coach Jerry Keola said. "They did a good job. They did a very, very good job."
The Mules took the first two sets after they finished off set 1 with a 6-0 run, then rode a 5-0 run midway through set 2. They had a look at match point with a 24-22 lead in set 3, but the Trojans scored five of the next six points to stave off defeat. Rodriguez put away the final three points of set 3 with back-to-back-to-back kills keep her team alive.
"At that point, it was like, ‘We only need two points. We gotta do this," said Crabbe, whose team struggled with its ball control and usually-steady service game for much of the night. "But when you need them at certain points, it just happens and it is what it is."
Crabbe expounded upon her team's difficulties, which were compounded by the fact that it was without starting setter Anae Asuncion (illness), which left sophomore Lylah Worsley to run a 5-1 offensive scheme over the 6-2 attack that the Trojans had grown accustomed to operating.
"We put a lot of different people in and we had a different setter the whole match. We went with the 5-1 because (Asuncion) was sick, but I thought Lylah did a good job and it was just hard," Crabbe said. "It was a hard one. I think our big part was our serving stunk. Our serving wasn't good and our passing was kind of inconsistent."
Leilehua held a 15-12 lead in set 4, but Erica Roberts's kill from the right side, off of a back set from Worley, ignited a 5-0 run for Mililani, which included a pair of service aces by Roberts. Later in the set, the Mules pulled to within 24-22 on a Tati Nena tip kill, but an attack error by the home team evened the match at two sets apiece.
After struggling at the service line for much of the night, the Trojans served tough in set 5. They kicked things off with a Worley service ace. They got a couple of aces from Paige Paaluhi and three Rodriguez kills from the left side that were part of a 6-0 run to seize an 8-2 cushion.
The Mules cut it to 10-7 with an ace by Trinity Tatupu and a few points later, got to within 12-11 on a Mililani attack error. They eventually tied it at 13 on a kill by Anniversary Felisi — one of her four in set 5 — to force a timeout by Crabbe.
Out of the stoppage, Worley set-up Nagakawa on the left side. Nakagawa's seam shot found the floor to push the Trojans ahead by a point. Nakagawa then teamed with Journey DePonte for a double-block to turn back a Leilehua attack and finish off the back-and-forth match.
Crabbe pointed out the irony of the final point after her team largely had no answer for Leilehua's middle attack all night.
"I know, the one block," she smirked. "But that's the block that counted, right?"
Keola, who is in his first season after he was named the successor to longtime coach Ernest Balignasay, previously headed the program's junior varsity team. Despite the loss, he was certainly ecstatic about the effort and his players put into the match.
"I look at it this way: I mean, this was the first time for us to play such a strong program like Mililani and to take them to five sets … we knew it was going to be a battle, we knew it wasn't going to be easy, but I'm just proud of the girls and how they performed tonight," Keola said.
The Mules still have a shot at a second-place finish in the OIA D1 West. The top two teams will have a first-round bye in the OIA tournament, which puts them into the tournament quarterfinals and one win away from a state tournament berth.
Leilehua will visit Kapolei (6-1) Thursday, then have a bye Tuesday, before closing the regular season at Waianae (6-1) on Oct. 6.
"We were there, but little mistakes here and there against good teams like that, they'll capitalize on it — which they did — so hats off to Mililani," Keola said. "I can't complain about the loss. Like I said, I would have wanted the win, but hey, this match definitely gives us a look at what we need to work on, especially playing teams like Mililani, but we still got a big road ahead."
Mililani will visit Waianae Thursday, then host Campbell (5-2) next Tuesday. It concludes the regular season against Radford on Oct. 6.
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