HIGH SCHOOL VOLLEYBALL
Aiea earns spot in states with split
Despite losing a heartbreaker to Kalani 26-28, 25-17, 30-28, the Aiea girls volleyball team earned a state-tournament berth for the second straight season by knocking off Mililani 25-20, 25-19 yesterday on Na Alii's home floor.
Kalani and Roosevelt also advanced to the Oahu Interscholastic Association semifinals with wins yesterday in Aiea. Na Alii head coach Blythe Yamamoto made sure her team joined them by turning to Lelani Kleman-Maeva early and often in Aiea's two matches.
She managed 37 kills for the day, including 25 in the three-game loss to Kalani.
The three-time OIA West Division champion Na Alii struggled in the first set as both teams scratched and clawed for each point. Tied at 15, and remaining tight throughout the first game, Na Alii finally took advantage with a late three-point rally fueled by a pair of Kalani errors and a game-ending solo block by Sasha Andrade.
The Kalani Falcons used a balanced attack in the second game to even the match, with Puahone Paia, Charly Sampaga and Meghan Koizumi combining for 11 kills. Paia finished the day with a team-high 16 kills, while Sampaga added 10.
Kalani took a 23-19 lead into the final points of the third game, but Aiea rode the right arm of Kleman-Maeva to catch the Falcons at 24.
With Kalani leading 24-21 and serving for match point, Aiea put together a furious rally that saw the Na Alii score four straight points -- two on Kleman-Maeva kills -- to take their own shot at victory. But a pair of Aiea ball-handling errors and a Sampaga crosscourt kill put the game ball in Kalani's hands at 26-25.
Again, it was Kleman-Maeva coming through with back-to-back kills to give Aiea a second shot at serving for the win at 27-26.
But as they did all afternoon, the Falcons found a way to get it done, despite the big game by Kleman-Maeva.
"They've got Lelani, and she's a big-time player," Kalani coach Daryl Tamashiro said. "She's gonna get her share of kills no matter what. We just wanted them to know that we were going to be there all day, trying to get our hands on everything she hit."
"You gotta love the effort," Tamashiro said of his team. "They had a lot of heart tonight and that's how our team is. Last year we had our star Tamari (Miyashiro), and you cannot really replace a player like her. But this is the group that supported Tamari last year, and now it's their time to shine, and it's really great to see them get their chance in the spotlight."
Showing strong resolve, Aiea returned to the court just minutes after the close loss to Kalani to play Mililani, for one of the OIA's final spots in the upcoming Division I state tournament.
Kleman-Maeva again led the way with a match-high 12 kills, as Aiea defeated Mililani in straight games, 25-20, 25-19.
"It was a tough day. Exhausting," Yamamoto said. "Not just physically, but mentally, too. With the change in the OIA tournament format, this is the first year we've had to play the extra game. With only 20 minutes in between games after that devastating loss to Kalani, our girls showed a lot of toughness.
"It was a good gut-check for us, and definitely a test of wills."
Roosevelt def. Mililani 2-0
The OIA East Division second seed Rough Riders dispatched the Trojans 25-15, 25-23 to earn a spot in the OIA semifinals and a state-tournament berth, behind a strong all-around effort from Hoku Oleole.
Oleole posted a match-high 16 assists while also adding three service aces, three kills and a solo block to lead Roosevelt into a rematch with Kalani in one league semifinal. Oleole was key in the Rough Riders late run in the first game, as she held her service for seven straight points, contributing three aces to fuel Roosevelt as it extended to a 24-13 lead.