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Prep Football Preview Special
Michael Lasquero | ScoringLiveMay 13, 2023, 9:36pm
Sat, May 13, 2023 @ BYU-Hawaii [ 5:00 pm ]
LAIE — Make room for another banner in Kalaepohaku.
Saint Louis won its first-ever boys volleyball state title in school history with a four-set win over top-seeded University Lab in the New City Nissan Division II Boys Volleyball Championship at BYU-Hawaii's George Q. Cannon Activities Center Saturday night.
Set scores were 25-22, 17-25, 25-20, 25-19.
Pupu Sepulona and TJ Setik each had 15 kills and Carson Lee added 12 more to lead the Crusaders' attack as Saint Louis (13-2) avenged two losses in league play to the Jr. Bows (11-1).
"I'm so speechless, but it feels great at the same time," said Sepulona, who had a hand in five blocks and was named the tournament's most outstanding player.
"First state title in school history at Saint Louis. It's a big thing for us. Everybody knows now that we're a volleyball school (too), instead of (just) basketball or football."
Sepulona, who also helped the Crusaders to state titles in boys basketball the past two seasons, had game-ending kills in the first and fourth set. He also had five total kills and two blocks in the final stanza.
"I feel like there's no pressure for me because I've been in the big moments," said Sepulona. "I'm just proud of my teammates cause they never had the opportunity to play at this high level. I'm just proud of my boys, this is all for them."
The third meeting between the two teams came down to preparation and focus. Saint Louis keyed on hitters Koa Laboy and Trey Ambrozich while taking its game to another level.
"We watched a lot of film on them, we knew who was their big hitters," Sepulona said. "We just knew what they were going to today so we just had to focus and just had to work together and lock down on their big hitters and just be smart."
Lee had 15 digs, libero Blaize Arakawa had 11 more and Setik (10 digs) had a number of digs in key moments to help stabilize the Crusaders' passing.
Laboy had 20 kills on 50 swings, but hit just .180 for the match. Ambrozich didn't fare any better with six errors against three kills as University hit .145 for the match and hit for zero in the final frame.
"We're a young team, things didn't fall our way, just how the chips fell," said University Lab coach Jonah Reyes. "They played a helluva of a game, Saint Louis played a great game. They deserve it."
The two teams split the first two sets before trading points throughout the beginning part of the third set. After a Micah Nakasato kill gave the Jr. Bows an 8-7 lead, Setik turned it on with three points in a 4-0 run to give Saint Louis a 11-8 lead. University tied it at 12 after a hitting error before Sepulona had an attack roll off the net to give Saint Louis the advantage at the set's TV timeout.
After the stoppage in play, Sepulona combined with Richard Lee to block Laboy to make it a 14-12 game. The Crusaders never trailed from that point on as they grew their lead and hit .316 for the frame.
Saint Louis continued its hot streak to start the fourth set with a 13-8 lead at the TV timeout. The Crusaders hit .444 before the timeout while the Jr. Bows were hitting negative.
"We really did mesh together and I think today really unified our brotherhood," said setter Rex Paguirigan, who had 50 assists.
"Honestly this is our last game. We just wanted to ball out and that's what we did."
Middle blocker Wendell Namohala got involved in the action down the stretch with a back-to-back kills to give Saint Louis a 18-11 lead that forced University Lab to call timeout. The Jr. Bows called their second timeout of the fourth set down 23-16 after Setik had an ace. University Lab was able to stave off match point three times before Sepulona's quick kill down the middle ended the match.
"We just weren't in system. Volleyball is a game of momentum and momentum shifted for Saint Louis and we just never recovered," said Reyes.
"All season we've been able to shift momentum back our side, but sometimes you just dig a hole so deep you can't get out of."
Nakasato added 14 kills for the Jr. Bows and hit .286 for the match. University Lab had seven aces to Saint Louis' two, with specialist Ethan Blas leading the way with four aces.
The Jr. Bows were also seeking their first state title in school history.
New City Nissan/HHSAA Boys Volleyball All-Tournament TeamDivision IITJ Setik, Saint LouisKoa Laboy, University LabWendell Namohala, Saint LouisMicah Nakasato, University LabCarson Lee, Saint LouisRex Paguirigan, Saint LouisMatteo Medina, WaimeaMost Outstanding Player: Pupu Sepulona, Saint Louis
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