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Prep Football Preview Special
Michael Lasquero | ScoringLiveApril 27, 2023, 12:33am
Wed, Apr 26, 2023 @ Radford [ 7:00 pm ]
ALIAMANU — Tested and true.
The crown remains with the team in blue.
Moanalua won its fourth straight OIA championship with a 25-11, 25-22, 25-21 win over Mililani in the league's Division I title match at Radford's Jim Alegre Gymnasium Wednesday night.
Kai Rodriguez put down 14 kills and registered seven of his team's 11 aces to power Na Menehune to their 12th overall league title.
Justin Todd added 13 kills as Moanalua (14-0) completed an undefeated run against OIA competition before the state tournament begins in two weeks.
Na Menehune never dropped a set in league play, but the Trojans (12-1) gave them all they could handle as they were the first team in the OIA to reach 20 points in a set against Moanalua.
"They definitely wanted it, we could tell," Rodriguez said of Mililani. "They had a good game plan for us, but we were just playing better."
Rodriguez, one of three players on the roster that will join the University of Hawaii men's volleyball team next year, was the main reason that Na Menehune was able to get past the Trojans.
The 6-foot-3 outside hitter jumpstarted a 10-0 run to close out the opening set after a kill from the right side. He then went to the service line and delivered four aces, which included back-to-back points to end the frame.
Mililani had the lead for most of the second set, including a 17-12 advantage after Ethan George and Kapena Kanuch won a battle at the net.
That's when Rodriguez turned it on again.
Another kill from the right side by Rodriguez regained the serve for Moanalua to make it 17-13. He then got a kill from the back row before getting three consecutive aces to tie the match at 17.
Rodriguez said he felt like he needed to take over the game at those moments of the match.
"Once I get back to the service line, it's kind of my game and it's what I do for the team to get us back in it, keep them off pace and everyone's doing a good job of hyping me up."
Both teams traded points after it was 17-17 until middle Zachary Yewchuk and Rodriguez combined for a block to give Moanalua a 22-21 advantage. Na Menehune then got an out-of-system kill when Yewchuk dished it to opposite Jaycen Bush to force a Mililani timeout.
Moanalua would pull away in set two after Rodriguez had a kill and combined on a block with Keola Demello for set point.
"We went back to the basics," Rodriguez said on Moanalua's adjustments. "We really made sure we closed that seam and let the defense play around us and not try to do anything fancy."
Mililani held a 3-point lead at various junctures of the third set before back-to-back kills from Todd and a hitting error tied it at 14. Na Menehune then scored the next three points and never looked back to pull away for the straight set sweep.
"It came down to our serving," said Moanalua coach Alan Cabanting. "We pushed them more out of system and forced their outsides to make more plays and kudos to (Mililani) coach Gabby (Maunupau) for putting a really great game plan that really pushed us to play better."
The Trojans fought valiantly in the loss, despite dealing with injuries. Evan Foki, Mililani's leading attacker in its quarterfinal win over Kaiser, sat out of the semifinals and championship with knee swelling. Manase Fetulimoeata (10 kills, 10 digs) also didn't have his usual workload on offense after spraining his left knee in the third set of the Trojans' semifinal win over Roosevelt.
This led to many different Mililani players filling new roles while Maunupau and the rest of the coaching staff tinkered with the lineup.
"I can't say it enough, I'm elated with what we did to take it to a team like that," said Maunupau. "Everybody expected us to be losing by 10, 11 points, but for our players to respond was a big thing for me. It showed us that we had some fight left in us, we were ready to compete. The serve-receive kind of hurt us a little bit, but to look at our reactions, our defense and to maintain our scheme on the court and not lose focus, I was so proud."
Both teams are one of six teams from the OIA to qualify for the New City Nissan Division I Boys Volleyball Championships, a 12-team single-elimination tournament. As the league runner-up, Mililani will host a first round game on May 8 while Moanalua will not play till the quarterfinals on May 11.
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