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Prep Football Preview Special
Kalani Takase | ScoringLiveOctober 20, 2022, 2:02am
Wed, Oct 19, 2022 @ Radford [ 7:00 pm ]
ALIAMANU — No. 4 Kahuku found itself on the ropes Thursday night, but like a prizefighter, outlasted eight-ranked Mililani to successfully defend its league crown.
Cha'lei Reid put down a match-high 21 kills and Mele Taumoepeau recorded a double-double with 15 kills and 12 digs to lead the Red Raiders (13-0) past the Trojans (11-2) in a pulsating OIA Division I championship match at Radford's Jim Alegre Gymnasium. The set scores were 21-25, 25-17, 21-25, 27-25 and 15-12.
A spirited capacity crowd of about 800 fans saw Kahuku complete an undefeated regular season to capture its second straight league title under coach Tuli Tevaga and the 15th overall in program history.
"There's a different focus when you're defending (champions) and I'm just glad that me and my coaches are on the same page that we want these girls to succeed and the girls have bought in and they know what the mission is and because they've bought in and we've bought in, we can only go up from here," Tevaga said.
Late Wednesday night, the Hawaii High School Athletic Association revelead the bracket for next week's New City Nissan/HHSAA State Championships. The Red Raiders are the No. 2 seed in the 12-team tournament and will have a first-round bye.
But it didn't come easy. The Trojans made sure of that.
The teams split the first two sets before the Trojans closed out set 3 with a 9-1 run to win it, 25-21.
They used another 9-1 run in set 4 to take a seemingly commanding 24-21 lead following a double-block by Erica Roberts and Journey DePonte. However, Kahuku staved off two Mililani match points with back-to-back kills by Mao Lauhingoa and Taumoepeau. Lauhingoa and Sidney Keni then teamed up on a double-block to tie it at 24 before Taumoepeau ripped a cross-court kill to put her team ahead, 25-24.
A Kahuku service error evened the score at 25, but Taumoepeau and Lauhingoa turned back a Mililani attack with their double-block and on set point, Maia Esera went off the block and out to finish off set 4, 27-25, and send it to a deciding fifth set.
Tevaga attributed her team's resilience and ability focus in high-stress situations to the work that the players put into practice.
"We put these girls in those situations in practice and it's just a matter of getting into that mentality of what we've been training and we've been training for this moment and they pulled through," Tevaga said.
Taumoepeau echoed her coach's sentiment.
"I think we just always put ourselves in scenarios in practice like this, so we're used to it and we knew that we could come back and this is a game of passion," she said.
Kahuku carried that passion into the final set.
The Red Raiders went up 8-2 after a 7-1 run early in set 5. The Trojans eventually pulled even after Alexis Rodriguez's solo block knotted the score at 12 and forced a timeout by Tevaga. However, Reid provided some cushion out of the stoppage with her seam shot that found the floor to put Kahuku ahead, 13-12. A Mililani attack then hit the antennae to give the Red Raiders match point. Fittingly, they went to Reid, who put away Hehea Pulotu's bump set for the match-winner.
Reid had four of Kahuku's 10 kills in the fifth set. She took 50 swings for the match and committed seven errors, for a .438 hitting percentage.
"It was a tough spot to be in, but with all of our team effort we were able to make our way back to top," said Reid, who served a string of three consecutive points late in set 4.
Tevaga praised the play of the sophomore outside hitter Reid, who also came up with nine digs, two aces and a solo block Thursday.
"She's proven that she can handle the pressure and with handling that pressure everybody stepped up where they needed to to support her with her being one of our strongest hitters and so it was great for her to face that pressure head on and be able to give in those pressure moments," she said.
Pulotu registered a team-high 18 digs and senior setter Dakota Keni came off the bench to contribute 15 assists, 11 digs and one kill. She entered the match in set 3 after Madison Mamizuka and Dakoda Keni had split the setting duties for the first two sets.
"Sometimes we need to change the momentum and we need a different set for our hitters and so that's what she brought and I mean, in those pressure situations again, putting them in those situations during practice definitely brought them up to leap when the pressure got high," Tevaga said of Kapu.
Kapu, for her part, wasn't a bit surprised when her number was called.
"I expected my team to show up tonight and if they needed me I was there to step up and I was ready," Kapu said.
Taumoepeau credited Kapu for igniting the Red Raiders to their come-from-behind victory in set 4.
"Oh, she was ready. She came in and she brought us all in our huddle and told us that ‘we want this' and ‘keep pushing' and she really was the fire starter for our team," Taumoepeau, who certainly did her share of work to contribute to the win as well.
Taumoepeau, a senior middle blcoker/outside hitter hit .438, was in on three blocks and had one ace. She committed only one attack error in 32 total swings. Lauhingoa contributed 12 kills and was in on five blocks. Mamizuka tallied 15 assists, six digs and a kill and Dakota Keni added 19 assists, eight digs and three aces.
Rodriguez finished with 20 kills on 64 swings to lead Mililani. She committed eight attack errors and hit .188 and also came up with nine digs. Roberts had 14 kills. LC Nakagawa posted a match-high 20 digs, Anae Asuncion had 11 and Anna Takushi 10. Asuncion dished out 43 assists.
"We expected that," Tevaga said of the Trojans' fight. "Mililani, even when I was playing high school, always came with everything that they've got and we told the girls that we're gonna have to be ready for anything, but as much as we were trying to prepare for them, we wanted to make sure that our side of the net was ready as well."
Mililani hit .162 for the match to Kahuku's .222 hitting percentage.
The Trojans were seeking their fifth OIA title and first since 2019.
Mililani will host Leilehua in a state tournament first-round game Monday at 5 p.m. The winner of that match will take on fourth-seeded Baldwin in a 7 p.m. quarterfinal Wednesday at Moanalua.
Kahuku will await the winner of the Kamehameha-Maui—Moanalua first-round game. The Red Raiders next play in the 5:30 p.m. quarterfinal Wednesday at McKinley's Student Council Gymnasium.
In other state tournament first-round games Monday, Kapolei will visit Hilo and Punahou will host Farrington, with the winners facing off against top-seeded Iolani and third-seeded Kamehameha-Hawaii, respectively.
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