HIGH SCHOOL VOLLEYBALL - DIVISION II
Sacred Hearts gets last word in Division II championship
The Sacred Hearts Lancers are living proof that history doesn't always repeat itself -- and they showed it last night in the New City Nissan/HHSAA Division II Championship game at the Stan Sheriff Center.
Consolation championship: Waianae def. Hawaii Prep, 25-16, 25-18
Fifth place: Seabury Hall def. Molokai, 25-20, 25-19
Third place: Waimea def. La Pietra, 24-26, 26-24, 25-19
Championship: Sacred Hearts def. Word of Life, 25-21, 25-20
Going up against Interscholastic League of Honolulu rival and top seed Word of Life -- which had bested the Lancers in three of four meetings this year, including the ILH championship game -- Sacred Hearts came together and played its best match of the year, winning 25-21, 25-20 in front of about 2,500 screaming fans at the Stan Sheriff Center.
Using a balanced attack to throw off the Firebrand blockers, the Lancers built off the teamwork they achieved in their semifinal win over La Pietra by going to hitters Kylee Maneja and Haililani Pokipala in equal amounts, and middle blocker Tiffany Phillips off unexpected quick sets.
Lancers coach Jonathon Tom knew his team, which went unseeded after its loss in the ILH final, had it in them.
"(It's) been our plan for three years now," he said as his team struck a victory pose. "We've been trying to develop the program to the point we could get at this level. We did a great job as far as the kids are concerned working hard in the offseason to get to this point; the kids were ready tonight."
The Lancers (17-6) also figured out Chanteal Satele, the Firebrands' flamethrower.
The Firebrands (16-6) chose to run their offense through Satele, who torched the Lancers in the ILH final for 19 kills. But Sacred Hearts built off its experience against its familiar foe, loading its blockers on the outside and forcing Word of Life to go to other offensive options. By the time the Firebrands found secondary option Crystal Powell, they were down 19-15 in Game 2.
"Because we played Word of Life four times already, we knew where they were gonna go to, our blocks were set up properly," Tom said. "We knew what we wanted to do on our side. Our game was to take advantage of that and hopefully it would work out."
The Lancers also spearheaded an advantage at the service line, with eight aces to the Firebrands' two. None were more important than setter Courtney Inouye's three straight aces in the heart of Game 2, turning a one-point deficit into an 11-9 lead.
"(Chanteal's struggle) all goes back to them serving well," said Word of Life coach LeeAnn Satele. "They took us out of our game plan, and we didn't get much (offensive) production. At the same time, they blocked really well, and played a good game at the net."
Word of Life turned to Powell to get them back in the game, and after two quick kills by the sophomore hitter -- sparking a 4-0 run -- the game was tied at 20.
Then sophomore Macy-Alexandra Mitravich elevated her play and her hands for the Lancers, coming up with roofs for her team's 22nd and 24th points to put the Firebrands at a severe disadvantage. Word of Life was pressured into an attack error into the net near the left-side antenna on the next play, and the Lancers screamed and mobbed each other on the court.
Mitravich had five blocks --two solo -- to help limit Satele.
"She is just unbelievable," Tom said. "She's moved from the right side to the middle this year, and she's just a great athlete."
Maneja and Pokipala had seven kills each to lead Sacred Hearts, while Phillips hit a match-high .444 with five kills.
"I was trying to keep the sets away from the tall blockers, and (set) everybody so they don't just camp out on one side," Inouye said.
Better ball distribution showed for the Lancers, yielding a team hitting percentage of .153 compared to .000 for the Firebrands. Only Satele (.167) and Powell (.056) managed a positive ratio for the favored team.
"I think it's always tough to come in as the top seed," Coach Satele said. "The other teams are coming up and everybody's coming after you. Sacred Hearts, it's obvious that they worked hard, they made some adjustments, the girls really wanted this and they served tough. You just got to take your hat off to them."
Tom said serving was indeed something his squad had worked on -- hitting the gaps and keeping their opponents off balance.
The Lancers' future also looks bright, with Maneja (sophomore) and Pokipala (junior) poised to return for future glory. Their new rival also seems destined to factor into the equation, with Satele returning for her senior season.
But just for yesterday, things seemed destined for the underdog.
"In the locker room we had a long pep talk about how much we want this, and we wanted it so bad," Maneja said. "All these girls just worked really hard in practice and we're just so proud of each other."
Pokipala was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player. She was joined on the all-tournament team by teammate Macy-Alexandra Mitravich, Chanteal Satele of Word of Life, Nue Wong of Waimea, Anastasia Fogatu of Waianae, Yacine Meyer of Seabury Hall and Kalena Frank and Ashanti Shih, La Pietra .