HIGH SCHOOL VOLLEYBALL
GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM
Iolani's Marya Kaminski blocked a shot during last night's match against Punahou.
Iolani beats Punahou to advance
In an event that requires teams to play as many as 10 matches in three days, the Iolani Raiders found a little spark that made their opening match in yesterday's championship round of the Ann Kang Invitational Volleyball Tournament something special.
For the first of what will be many times this year, the Raiders psyched themselves to play rival Punahou. Fueled by excitement, and Lauren Minkel's and Marya Kaminski's seven kills apiece, Iolani advanced in the winner's bracket of the double-elimination tournament with a 25-17, 25-15 win at Iolani's lower gym.
"I think it was definitely attitude and adrenaline that made the difference because it was Punahou," Minkel said.
"They were up to the challenge," Iolani coach Jenic Tumaneng said.
The Raiders play Newport Harbor today in the quarterfinals. The championship match is set for 7 p.m. Newport Harbor edged Moanalua in three games, 25-17, 21-23, 25-18, to reach the quarterfinals.
Larissa Nordyke led the Buffanblu, putting down seven kills, while Shawna-Lei Kuehu added four.
"Iolani looked like a real comfortable team on the court," Punahou coach Jim Iams said. "We just seemed awfully tight and seemed to just be trying too hard."
Already with a three-point lead midway through Game 1, the Raiders broke away with a six-point run. Punahou outside hitter Elizabeth Kaaihue struggled with Iolani's block throughout the match. The 5-foot-8 senior committed four hitting errors in that Iolani run, a couple while trying to avoid the Raiders' block that was camped on the outside.
"I thought Larissa had a really nice night for us, but other than that, we really didn't," Iams said.
"We knew we had to key in on their outside because they're really strong," Minkel said. "And we executed. That's what did it."
The Raiders tallied six blocks, two each by Kaminski and Kapua Kamanao.
Punahou started out strong in the second game, with middles Shawna-Lei and Shaena-Lyn Kuehu continuing their steady play from the closing minutes of Game 1. Iams said that the two have done a good job, especially considering starting middle Emily Fukunaga sat out the tournament because of illness.
But the Raiders slowly built a nine-point advantage in the early 20s, and a dump shot by Kamanao sealed the win.
"The first day we had the first-game jitters, some of us were nervous," Minkel said. "But we finally got our chemistry down."
Rewarding experience: The Iolani B team surprised everyone by finishing second in its pool to advance into the championship round.
The team's reward? Playing national powerhouse and defending California Interscholastic Federation champ Mira Costa.
"They overachieved," coach Ruth Tawarahara said of her shorter, but more importantly, less-experienced players. "We're just really proud of them."
And the Raiders had the lead, if only for a couple of minutes. Iolani started the match with an ace by freshman Maile Yoon, then went up 2-0 with a Mustang hitting error. But after that, it was all Mira Costa, as the Mustangs easily handled the Raiders 25-10, 25-14.
Mira Costa improved to a perfect 10-0 in the tournament.
But from the start of the match, right through to the closing congratulatory handshakes, the young Raiders flashed wide grins. They, along with a very appreciate crowd, celebrated every point, sometimes even in the middle of a rally.