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Prep Football Preview Special
Kalani Takase | ScoringLiveNovember 8, 2023, 11:58pm
Wed, Nov 8, 2023 @ Moanalua [ 7:00 pm ]
SALT LAKE — Call ‘em the breakthrough Bears.
Twins Ariana and Amanda Naipo combined for 28 kills and 18 digs to help No. 7 Baldwin rally past No. 8 Kapolei in the quarterfinals of the New City Nissan/HHSAA Division I Girls Volleyball State Championships Wednesday night. The set scores were 22-25, 25-20, 25-17 and 25-19.
A small crowd of about 200 fans was on hand for the nightcap of a doubleheader at Moanalua. Tournament No. 1 seed Kamehameha swept past No. 5 Moanalua in the matinee before a packed house.
It was sweet redemption for the Bears, who improved to 14-1 and will face the top-ranked Warriors in a 7 p.m. semifinal Thursday at Moanalua.
It was at last year's state tournament where Baldwin was left with a bad taste in its mouth. After running the table through the Maui Interscholastic League season, it went two-and-out at the state tournament. In fact, it was a consolation bracket loss to Kapolei that ended the 2022 season for coach Al Paschoal's squad.
Fast forward a little more than a year and the Bears are in the final four.
"It feels fantastic. We got that monkey off our back," Paschoal said.
The core of Baldwin's roster — the Naipo sisters, libero Natronai Anana (17 digs) and setter Lilinoe Paschoal (40 assists, six kills, two aces)— are juniors. When they were freshmen in 2021, it was the same story as their sophomore campaign: Baldwin lost both of its matches at states.
"Tonight was the first set that we've actually won in the state tournament with this group, so that was definitely a goal," Paschoal reflected. "We're very proud of them, but they earned it, so that was nice. They put in the hard work and I'm proud of them."
It didn't start off so promising for the Bears Wednesday night. The Hurricanes generated an 11-2 run to separate early in set 1. Baldwin stormed back to pull ahead at 22-21 after Lili Paschoal and Kuuleimokihana Manaois teamed up for a block. Kapolei answered with a Leila Paraoan kill to spur a set-ending 4-0 run that was capped by consecutive aces by Paraoan.
Baldwin came to life earlier in set 2. A tip by Imani-Maile Hargis out of the middle set off a 7-1 run that led to a 13-9 cushion for her team by the television timeout. Later in the set, Kapolei inched to within 22-20 after a mini 3-0 run, but the Bears benefitted from a lift call and then got back-to-back kills from Amanda Naipo and Hargis to finish out the set and even the match.
Paschoal said the difference from sets 1 to 2 was simply a matter of calming nerves.
"I think they just got over the lights of the big show and we didn't play anywhere near how we normally could play that first set and we were still kind of in it, so that was nice that they kind of settled down," Paschoal said. "We did have problems with serve-receive almost the whole night, but once they settled that a little bit then we were able to do some things that we wanted to."
That was evident in his team's hitting percentages by set. Baldwin hit .188 in set 1, but .303 over the next three sets. Amanda Naipo had 12 kills on 29 swings (.241 attack percentage) along with 10 digs and Ariana Naipo tallied 16 kills on 39 swings (.154), as well as eight digs and two aces.
"I think we wanted it, we really wanted it, especially coming from Maui and being an outer island team, it's hard to get higher ranks as an outer island team," Ariana Naipo said.
That also meant limited footage and information on Kapolei, the third-place team out of the Oahu Interscholastic Association.
"I saw them one time on TV and then didn't get to see them again after that, so we kind of were looking at the beginning-of-August footage and then that was all we saw, but I've know them forever; She's a fantastic coach on that side and we see them during club, too," Paschoal said of venerable ‘Canes coach Naidah Gamurot.
Baldwin used a couple of 5-1 runs and a 6-1 streak to pull away with set 3. It seized control of set 4 with an 11-2 run that included a couple of Ariana Naipo kills sandwiched around a Lili Paschoal ace and gave their team a 16-10 lead. Kapolei got to within 17-13 on a Malinah Purcell-Telefoni kill, but was unable to get any closer. An Ariana Naipo cross-court shot finished off the match.
Purcell-Telefoni, who signed her national letter of intent with the University of Hawaii Wednesday morning, ended up with 15 kills. Paraoan had 10 kills and Tehani Faasuamanu 11 for Kapolei, which fell to 12-3 and was coming off of a first-round sweep of Waiakea Monday.
Al Paschoal said that targeting both pin hitters, Purcell-Telefoni and Paraoan, was a key part of his team's game plan.
"Telefoni, for sure. You gotta know where she is at all times, by all means and they actually were scrappy defensively. Their outside (Paraoan), she's lighting it up the past few weeks, so that was definitely somebody that we were kind of keying on also and we were hoping that with a little bit of service pressure we could kind of get them out of system a little bit," said Paschoal, whose team was playing in its first match since Oct. 25.
The 14 days between matches paled in comparison to the year-long wait the Bears toiled through until they earned another crack at breaking into the semifinal round of the state tournament.
"I think it was amazing," Ariana Naipo expressed. "All glory to God though, but we really worked hard this past year wanting to go to the states and, you know, succeed, and last year I think we weren't mentally prepared before our games so that's why we didn't do as well in that, but I think now we're a lot more mature."
The reward is a shot at Kamehameha, one of the state's blue bloods in the sport.
Like the Bears, however, these Warriors are seeking a bit of redemption as well after missing out on states for the first time in more than 20 years a season ago.
"Kamehameha is a machine. Give them an inch and they're gonna take a mile, so you have to try to stay close and hopefully that's gonna come down to execution," Paschoal said.
He added of his bunch: "It's nice seeing them grow up. This is a bunch of girls that came in as freshmen and started as freshmen and grew and so we wanted to have them make some noise this tournament, which would be nice. Hopefully we can go and be a little more calm when we start that game (Thursday) and be a little closer to what we can do, so we can hopefully Kamehameha just a little bit of a rub."
As for the Warriors, they were led by Kalaweloilehua Chock's 13 kills in their sweep of Moanalua in the early quarterfinal. The set scores were 25-14, 25-16 and 25-23.
Kamehameha (15-1) was playing in its first match since Oct. 26. It got off to a bit of a slow start Wednesday.
Moanalua held a 13-7 lead but saw the Warriors go on a 15-0 run to seize control of — and eventually run away with — set 1.
"With this long break we knew we had to really bounce into this game and we knew we had to bring a lot of energy, so for the past week of practice we really went at it," said Chock, a sophomore outside hitter.
"We worked more tactical one-on-one stuff and we just had to make sure we were good with our serving and our first touch and we had to clean up stuff and we were also running more plays, which can get more confusing for other teams," added Chock, who took a team-high 33 swings and hit .273 for the match.
Chock pointed to the service line as where the Warriors were able to turn the tide in the opening set.
"After the first timeout we knew that they were going to be hungry and we knew that we had to bounce back, so we had to go on that 15-0 run with our serves and it really was the serving that allowed us to do that and especially with our defense and our blocking we had to close up on that," Chock said.
Kamehameha exploited Moanalua in serve-receive and took aim at its standout pin hitter, Malu Garcia, from the end line.
"Malu is a really good hitter, we had to track her," Chock said. "She was actually our main key for this game because she's really a key and she just bashes balls but we knew we had to block her most of the time and just track her."
The Warriors ran away with set 2, but trailed Na Menehune late in set 3, 22-21. However, Moanalua committed three service errors and another attack error over the next five points to end the match.
Moanalua had eight service errors for the match against one ace. It finished with a .036 hitting percentage. Garcia was one kill shy of a dozen, while libero Natalie Fukumoto registered a match-high 15 digs.
Kamanao Goldstein and Ashli Lum came up with 13 and 10 digs, respectively and Emma Lilo dished out 26 assists with seven digs, four aces and two kills for Kamehameha.
Moanalua (13-2) will play Kapolei in a consolation match Thursday, 5 p.m. at McKinley.
The first semifinal at Moanalua Thursday will pit No. 2 Punahou against No. 3 Kamehameha-Hawaii at 5 p.m.
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