HIGH SCHOOL VOLLEYBALL
Punahou passes Iolani to reach state tourney
Sometimes the fate of an entire season comes down to the result of one game.
In a do-or-die match in which the winner moved on to the state tournament, No. 2 Punahou relied on its powerful duo of senior outside hitters Larissa Nordyke and Elizabeth Kaaihue in a 26-24, 28-26 sweep over Interscholastic League of Honolulu rival No. 3 Iolani last night at Hemmeter Field House.
The win guarantees the Buffanblu a second of two ILH berths into the state tournament, along with champion and top-ranked Kamehameha (17-1) who clinched the title last week. Nordyke pounded out a match-high 15 kills, while Kaaihue added 12 of her own, eight of which came in the second game.
"They played so well," said Punahou head coach Jim Iams of his veteran squad. "I had a feeling, after watching both teams in warm-ups, that this would be a really close match. I'm really proud of them."
The Buffanblu (15-3) pulled out come-from-behind victories in both games. Each squad took turns see-sawing with the lead in the first frame until the Raiders parlayed a four-point streak into a 21-16 advantage. But Punahou stormed back, going on a 7-1 run to take a 23-22 lead. After the Raiders tied the score at 23, the Buffanblu stayed aggressive, and got three straight kills from Nordyke, Shawna-Lei Kuehu, and Kaaihue to end game.
"Everyone played really well, and coach prepared us well," Nordyke said. "We had to go out there and take care of business. (When we were trailing), I had faith in my teammates, and when we stick together and have a common goal, we can accomplish anything we want to."
The Raiders (13-4) jumped out to an early 10-5 advantage in the second game, but Punahou stuck to its winning formula of Nordyke plus Kaaihue, and went on a 7-2 run to tie the game at 12. Iolani did not relent, though, and pulled ahead 17-15. Kaaihue answered back loud and clear with six kills out of Punahou's next 12 points, and the Buffanblu vaulted into match point at 25-24.
After the Raiders turned the tables to gain the 26-25 lead, Punahou's Anuhea Keanini stepped up and pounded down two consecutive kills. Nordyke capped off her stellar performance with the match-clinching kill, and the celebration was on.
"It was a sweet victory," Kaaihue said. "We had to make some adjustments (after being down in both games), but we handled the adversity and conquered. I was swinging to put it away, that's for sure."
In the loss, Leinani Keanini led Iolani with nine kills, while teammate Chelsea Hardin chipped in with eight kills and three blocks.
Now, the Buffanblu will have some time to enjoy the win as it gears up for the state tournament.
"This is senior year, and we had the letdown of not going to states last year," Nordyke said. "It's my last chance, so hopefully we can go the distance this year."