Star-Bulletin Sports

Sunday, November 4, 2001


Iolani adds volleyball to
its list of ILH championships

By Grace Wen

In the Iolani School gym, Interscholastic League of Honolulu championship banners in nearly every sport adorn the walls.

The Raiders have won titles in soccer, basketball, tennis, softball and wrestling. And now the Iolani girls volleyball team can mount one too.

Iolani outlasted Punahou 15-5, 3-15, 15-11, 9-15, 15-11 in a two-hour drawn-out battle to win the first volleyball league championship in school history.

The Raiders remain unbeaten at 15-0 and will likely be the top seed in the state tournament in two weeks. Punahou (12-2) will be the ILH's other representative in the tournament. It is Iolani's first trip to the state tournament since 1987, when it was the third representative from the league.

"It was a matter of being steady and riding out the runs," Iolani coach Ann Kang said. "The girls just wanted it. They just made the adjustments and took advantage of the momentum run."

The first two games were lopsided wins for both teams. Game 3 looked like it would be another blowout for the Buffanblu, who had leads of 7-3 and 11-4.

But the Raiders changed the momentum of the game and the match behind the serving of sophomore Ashley Aratani. The defensive specialist jump-served ten straight points to put Iolani ahead 14-4.

Punahou had a difficult time siding out with two of its top hitters, Michelle Look (16 kills, 16 digs, 5 aces) and Puna Richardson (14 kills, 4 blocks) in the back row. A kill by Punahou freshman Aneli Otineru ended the run, but an ace by senior La'akea Campbell four plays later finished the comeback.

Iolani started slowly again in Game 4 as Punahou jumped out to a 12-4 lead. Iolani rallied behind the hitting of junior Kanoe Kamana'o (12 kills, six blocks) and the blocking of Campbell (three kills, six blocks) to bring the score to 9-12 but that was the closest the Raiders would get.

"It was pretty tight," Punahou coach John McDermott said. "Volleyball is such a game of momentum and when one team has the momentum, they can score a lot of points and that happened to both of us. Unfortunately they had the momentum in the fifth and it was hard to get back."

Punahou was also without middle blocker Seisha Sukekane, who went down with an injury to her right knee in the fourth game.

Iolani led the entire fifth game with an all-around team effort. Kamana'o had three kills as Iolani surged to an 11-5 lead. The Raiders committed two errors and Look had two kills to cut the deficit to three at 12-9. Otineru helped Punahou fight off one match point with her 18th kill of the match. Kamana'o, also a setter, found an open Blair Nonaka, who crushed her 11th kill between two diving Punahou defenders to end the match.

As the Iolani squad celebrated on the floor, a fan in the crowd raised a mock 2001 ILH championship banner. It was a fitting regular season finale for the five seniors, who were honored in a post-game ceremony.

"We came into this game wanting to win and we weren't about to quit and fall over and die," Campbell said. "We just played our hearts out."

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