FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Roosevelt's Bryce Kozuki tried to hit past Mililani's Brian Prentice in last night's match.
Palama puts Rough Riders in states
Kaina Palama more than doubled any other player on the court with nine kills as Roosevelt served Mililani out of its quarterfinal match in the Oahu Interscholastic Association boys volleyball tournament last night at Radford.
After staying close in the early going, the Trojans couldn't keep up with the Rough Riders and their tough serves, falling 25-14, 25-20.
With the win, the Rough Riders improved to 9-4 and earned a berth in the state tournament next month, while the Trojans played Castle for a tourney spot and lost that match to the Knights to finish the season at 8-7.
"We're happy about (getting the state berth)," Roosevelt coach Kaui Mendonca said. "We wanted that, we pushed for that. We wanted to win this match just so we can get that spot."
From before the first serve of the match, both coaches had an inkling as to the mood of their teams.
"We waited a long time to play a match, so I think the kids were pretty excited," Mendonca said of his squad, which hadn't played in 10 days since ending the regular season. "They were getting tired of practice."
While the Rough Riders were ready for battle, Mililani coach John Ing said the Trojans weren't.
"We were off from the beginning, even before the warmups," Ing said. "I could tell already that the boys just weren't into the game."
The teams traded the lead early in the first game until the 13-13 mark, when the Rough Riders made their move. After a Mililani double-hit put Roosevelt ahead, senior Jayson Tasaka gave the Rough Riders all the separation they needed from behind the service line. Using a standing, line-drive delivery, Tasaka served three straight aces to begin an 8-0 run.
"Jayson's one of our better servers," Mendonca said. "Jayson and Jordan (Murakami), we always seem to get points from them, so that helps us because we aren't a big team, so we can't always rely on the block."
The Rough Riders tallied nine aces in the match, including two each by Murakami and Palama. It was also during the run that Palama was able to get going offensively.
Until that point, the sophomore outside hitter was being keyed on by the Trojan blockers. But Palama broke out of his slump, getting both Roosevelt kills during the stretch and finished with five in the game.
"I was just trying to play smart," said Palama, who tried to hit high-hands when faced with the double block. "That's my game, playing aggressively smart."
To get Palama more opportunities at the net, Mendonca said he tried to get him more sets in different locations on the court. The middle attack began to work as the Rough Riders were able to get a large lead on the Trojans early on in Game 2, jumping out to a 11-2 advantage.
The Rough Riders would lead by as many as eight points late in the game before Mililani made one last push. After a kill by Palama in the middle brought the score to 21-13, the Trojans went on an 8-3 run, fueled mainly by a few Roosevelt errors. But it was too late, as Uluwehi Keaunui sent the Rough Riders on to the semifinals with his third kill of the night.
The Rough Riders will meet Radford in the semifinals. The Rams defended their home court in yesterday's second quarterfinal with a sweep of Castle, 28-26, 25-15.
The Rams, the first seed out of the West, improved to 12-1, while the Knights dropped to 9-5. Castle went on to claim a state tournament berth an hour later by defeating Mililani, 25-18, 25-23.
"I'm speechless," Radford coach Damon Keyes said on securing a spot in the state playoffs. "This year, we were really hungry for it. We're really excited to go."
Glen Klaiber and Eric Petersen led the Rams with seven kills apiece, while Allan Babas, Anthony Babas and Billy Nihipali each added four.
After falling behind 14-9 in the first game, the Knights scored seven-consecutive points to go up by two. The run was highlighted by both a solo block and a kill by Keala Aulevala that helped the Knights tie the game.
From there, the teams traded the lead until Radford took control late. But it took the Rams four game-points to finally get the decisive 28th point on a four-hit call on the Knights.
"I told the boys don't go into the game underestimating them, because they're a good team," Keyes said of the Knights. "They can beat anybody on any given day, and they showed that."