HIGH SCHOOL VOLLEYBALL
Firebrands fired up, earn bye for states
ILH Division II Girls Championship
Sacred Hearts managed to hang with Word of Life and then some for two full games in the Interscholastic League of Honolulu Division II championship match last night.
That was long enough, as far as the No. 6 Firebrands were concerned.
They turned to the arm of Chanteal Satele to carry them in Game 3 en route to a tightly contested 26-24, 23-25, 25-19 victory over the eighth-ranked Lancers.
The junior outside hitter amassed a match-high 19 kills by going over, around and -- more often than not -- through Sacred Hearts blockers.
While both teams had already clinched D-II state-championship berths prior to last night, the match settled seeding position. The Firebrands now get an opening-round bye on Monday, while the Lancers must face the Big Island Interscholastic Federation's third-place team.
There was also pride at stake. Word of Life (13-5) rocked Sacred Hearts (12-6) last week, but Firebrands coach LeeAnn Satele said she expected a much closer match last night, and she got it.
"Oh, yes, we were expecting Sacred Hearts to come back strong," she said. "They're a good team, and we didn't take them lightly at all."
But her daughter, Chanteal, helped ensure things never got dicey down the stretch.
"I think she's growing every day, a better player with each game," Coach Satele said. "I think this game was one of her better games, and it really helps that she had good support, the passing was good on the team, the setting was good, and with that, all the hitters are all that good."
Family modesty aside, the younger Satele shouldered her team's load when she needed to and added four service aces for the match.
Word of Life built and maintained leads of three or more points through the heart of each of the first two games, but on cue, the Lancers rallied both times.
In Game 1, the Lancers trailed 24-21 but rallied for three straight points to square things up. That forced a Firebrand timeout, wherein coach Satele told her team not to panic. They forced an attack error and got a key block from Crystal Powell and Marrietta Ranche to end it two points later.
"Our coach just told us to stay composed," Chanteal Satele said. "We kept our heads in the game instead of getting all rattled."
To the delight of their home fans, the Lancers turned a Game 2 deficit of 18-14 into a 20-19 edge behind a pair of kills from Haililani Pokipala and two roofs from middle blocker Tiffany Phillips. The Firebrands returned a salvo from Satele and Tiana Pearson to go up 23-21.
Then Lancer sophomore Kylee Maneja got warmed up, going for four straight cross-court kills from the left side through the Firebrands' defense, whipping the crowd into a frenzy and claiming Game 2 for her team. She finished with nine kills, while Pokipala had a team-high 10.
"We were telling each other not to give up, to play our game and not go to their (style)," Maneja said. "We played as a team because we didn't want to get down or anything. We're still happy, our goal is to take states now."
But there would be no such comeback in Game 3. Satele put down eight of her kills in that frame, including demoralizing blasts for her team's 23rd and 24th points that helped seal the match before Ranche put it away off a quick set down the middle.
Sacred Hearts assistant coach Darin Yoshinaka -- who took over for business-trip-bound head coach Jonathon Tom -- was proud of his team's effort.
"I give credit to our girls. (Word of Life) is a very strong, athletic team and at one point during Game 3 their athleticism and their power just took over. It was just too much for us but ... our team stuck in there and showed we can go up against them, and hopefully we get back at them in the states."