DIVISION II SEMIFINAL
Balanced attack lifts Lancers over La Pietra
Once Sacred Hearts started mixing up its offense, there wasn't a whole lot La Pietra could do last night in a Division II Girls State Championship semifinal at Radford.
The Lancers relied heavily in Game 1 on hitter Kylee Maneja, but by Game 2 the Panthers had adjusted and pulled out a close victory. But when the Lancers utilized a balanced attack in Game 3, they pulled away to win 25-19, 23-25, 25-15 and advance to face Word of Life in today's championship match.
Sacred Hearts setter Courtney Inouye found middle blocker Tiffany Phillips for four of her five kills in the deciding game, while primary offensive options Maneja and Haililani Pokipala added three kills apiece in that set. Maneja led the Lancers (16-6) with 10 kills, while Pokipala added nine. Maneja also added two aces in the deciding game.
The flurry of various attackers left the Panthers (11-10) flustered and in disarray.
"We wanted to get it in the first two sets," Lancers coach Jonathon Tom said. "We were just playing into their hands. We worked on our ball control in Game 3."
It showed, with Inouye going to their tallest player, Phillips, when the Panthers loaded up on Pokipala or Maneja, and hit either of the Lancers outside hitters when La Pietra countered Phillips' height.
"They have a great setter," Panthers coach Tony McInerny said. "Basically they passed so well, and (Inouye) set almost every player, so we didn't know where to go. We tried to make switches, and they would adjust by going to our weak block. I give a lot of credit to the Lancers because they are an excellent team."
With its newfound confidence, Sacred Hearts closed out the final game on a decisive 9-2 run.
"It's good (to mix it up) because all the teams stack on me and it's good when my teammates step it up. It really balances us out and makes us win," said Pokipala, who had just two kills after Game 1. "(Kylee) took a lot of pressure off of me so I'm really proud of her."
Ashanti Shih and Kalena Frank tied for team honors for the Panthers with eight kills apiece.
In Game 2, La Pietra withstood Lancers runs of 7-0, 7-2 and 4-0 -- the last putting the Lancers up 22-20 -- and went on a 5-1 run of their own to close out the game and tie the match.
"I basically told them to just play with some pride," McInerny said. "They were scared -- they'd never been here before, and I told them, 'Enjoy the ride, play loose' and the only adjustment I said was the mental game of volleyball. And they responded so well."
Today's championship game is a rematch of the Interscholastic League of Honolulu championship, which the Firebrands won in three games.