GIRLS VOLLEYBALL DI STATE CHAMPIONSHIP
FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Larissa Nordyke, Elizabeth Ka'aihue and Alexa Untermann of Punahou celebrated after winning a point during last night's semifinal win.
Punahou advances to Division I final
The Buffanblu get a familiar foe -- the ILH rival Warriors
After failing to qualify for the state tournament last season, the Punahou girls volleyball team finds itself back where it's accustomed to finishing the year -- playing for another state championship.
The unseeded Buffanblu will look to win their seventh state championship, and third in the last four
years, after knocking off No. 2 seed Roosevelt 25-18, 25-21 last night in the semifinals of the New City Nissan/HHSAA Girls Volleyball Division I State Championship at McKinley.
Elizabeth Ka'aihue, who sent in her letter of intent to play for Hawaii yesterday, hammered a match-high 11 kills and Larissa Nordyke, who played for the first time since suffering a sprained ankle in Punahou's opening game on Monday, teamed with Shawna-Lei Kuehu for a block on match point to push the Buffanblu into tonight's state title game against top seed and ILH rival Kamehameha at 7:30 at the Stan Sheriff Center.
State finals, today, at Stan Sheriff Center
Div. I: Kamehameha vs. Punahou, 7:30 p.m.
Div. II: Word of Life vs. Sacred Hearts, 6 p.m.
Kahuku def. KS-Maui, 25-15, 25-22
KS-Hawaii def. Maui, 25-17, 20-25, 25-22
Kamehameha def. Moanalua, 25-16, 20-25, 25-22
Punahou def. Roosevelt, 25-18, 25-21
At Stan Sheriff Center
Consolation championship: Aiea vs. McKinley, noon
Fifth place: Kahuku vs. KS-Hawaii, 1:30 p.m.
Third place: Moanalua vs. Roosevelt, 4:30 p.m.
Championship: Kamehameha vs. Punahou, 7:30 p.m.
"This is what we wanted, Kamehameha in the finals," Ka'aihue said. "We've got one more to go and we'll just play our game and look to get the W."
With Nordyke in the starting lineup, the Buffanblu (19-3) looked as sharp as they had been all tournament in Game 1. Ka'aihue put down four consecutive kills at one point to give the Buffanblu a 12-3 lead, and finished the game with six kills in eight attempts without an error.
"It helped getting Larissa back and everyone went back to playing in their normal spots and doing what they have been accustomed to doing," Ka'aihue said. "I think we found our rhythm faster tonight because of it."
The Buffanblu had started slow in each of the first two games of the tournament, but dominated the first game, holding Roosevelt (13-4) to a .037 hitting percentage and just five total kills.
"We just looked a step behind tonight," Roosevelt coach Bryan Camello said. "I don't know what it was, but we just weren't as sharp as we had been in the past."
The Buffanblu built a three-point lead in the second game when sophomore Anuhea Keanini served six straight points -- the last two coming on aces -- to force Roosevelt to call a timeout down 18-9. For the first time all game, Roosevelt responded with some success, and pulled to within 23-21 after back-to-back hitting errors from Nordyke. But the senior outside hitter atoned for her mistakes with a kill to push the lead back to three, then combined with Kuehu for a double block to clinch the victory.
"I didn't care how I felt, I was going to play no matter what," Nordyke said. "Initially when I sprained my ankle, I was so emotionally hurt when I thought I was out for states. But once I knew I could play on it, there was no way I was going to miss this."
Overall, the Buffanblu had 25 kills, compared to 14 for Roosevelt, and each team committed nine errors. Senior Hoku Oleole had three of her team-high four kills during Roosevelt's stretch run in which they nearly forced a third game.
FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Liz Ka'aihue of Punahou put one of her match-high 11 kills past a Roosevelt blocker during last night's Division I semifinals.
"I told them I just wanted to see some Rough Rider pride at the end," Camello said. "They played a great half of a match, but it's very difficult when you play a team like Punahou to come back after giving up that many points."
Despite what he called the worst volleyball Punahou has played all year during that late run from the Rough Riders, Punahou coach Jim Iams wasn't concerned about his team's struggle to close out Game 2.
"That was a clear example of being so nervous to just get those last few points in order to make it to the championship game," Iams said. "When you're that close to reaching your No. 1 goal of making it to the finals, you have a tendency to tighten up. They just needed to get their mind off of it and focus on the game."
The Rough Riders will take on Moanalua in a rematch of the Oahu Interscholastic Association championship game a week ago in the third-place game at 4:30 p.m. at the Sheriff Center.