[ HIGH SCHOOL VOLLEYBALL ]
Lady Mules learn in loss
To begin pool play in the Hawaii Volleyball Invitational yesterday, the Punahou girls easily handled Leilehua, winning all three sets, 21-12, 21-12, 21-7.
But what was more impressive is most of the Buffanblu starters were pulled 10 points into the first game.
For all teams involved, there are many advantages in playing in a competitive preseason volleyball tournament like the 12-team Hawaii Invitational being held through tomorrow at the Kamehameha Schools campus.
For teams like the Oahu Interscholastic Association's Leilehua, playing against tough out-of-conference competition and simply learning the game are key.
"It's good to play against other people you wouldn't usually play against in the season," Leilehua middle Christiana Chandler said. "Basically, you get to learn the fundamentals of how a volleyball game is run."
Chandler led all Lady Mules attackers with four kills.
But when you already play in the toughest league in the state, the Interscholastic League of Honolulu, the advantage is primarily being able to empty the bench.
"We just played (in the Ann Kang Invitational) last week, and some of the kids haven't even had the chance to practice very much," Punahou coach Jim Iams said. "It was just real nice to let them get out there and play. A real game's always a bit more valuable than a practice."
Host Kamehameha also had the luxury of resting its starters for the first match. The Warrior backups were able to fight off a spirited Moanalua II team, the junior varsity Lady Menehune squad, 21-3, 21-15, 21-16.
Behind Diana Hiromoto's serving, and poor Leilehua passing, Punahou took a 6-1 lead in the first game. At that point, Buffanblu hard-hitter Larissa Nordyke was subbed out. She was followed by Punahou's other dynamic outside, senior Elizabeth Kaaihue, on the next point, which was an ace by Hiromoto.
"It's tough because they obviously are not quite as experienced as a lot of our players," Iams said. "But they dug a lot of balls, kept coming back at us."
Hiromoto notched four of the Buffanblu's seven aces.
The two veteran outsides were replaced by sophomores Courtney Lelepali and Kristina Kam. And the underclassmen rarely missed a beat.
Kam took control of the first game, pounding five kills, including a deep crosscourt shot to end the set. She finished with nine kills.
Meanwhile, Lelepali and middle Shaena-Lyn Kuehu added eight kills each in the match.
By the third game, the Punahou backup players wore down the Lady Mules, going up 8-0 behind Hiromoto's serves.
"This is a really good experience to prep us for the season," Lelepali said. "Everybody gets to play and we get to see what other teams are out there."
Pool play continues today starting at 6 p.m.