HIGH SCHOOL VOLLEYBALL
Moanalua stops Kalani
For a moment, the Kalani Falcons soared high over Moanalua.
The view was nice, but Kaleinani Kabalis and Na Menehune put an end to that quickly. Kabalis pounded 14 kills and had two blocks as Moanalua rallied for a 25-19, 25-13 home win last night in the Oahu Interscholastic Association season opener for both teams.
Sarah Robinson added five kills, while junior Kaylee Ponce had four of her team's seven service aces.
Tina Pulu and Summer-Rey Taliva'a-Thatcher led the visiting Falcons with four kills each.
"We've got a lot to work on, but we're coming together," first-year Kalani coach Janeen Waialae said.
Moanalua, one of the co-favorites to win the OIA, started Kabalis in the back row and spread the ball around offensively. By the time the power-hitting senior got her first swing, Kalani was in a groove. A kill from the right side by Taliva'a-Thatcher gave the Falcons an early 8-5 lead in Game 1.
Falcons middle blocker Rhianna Farm (5-foot-11) zoned in on Kabalis, while setter Chelsea Suzumoto was on point with her targets, hitting Taliva'a-Thatcher and Pulu. A series of errors by Moanalua helped Kalani stay close, and the visiting Falcons led 18-16.
"Our focus was to slow her down," Waialae said of Kabalis. "We were serving opposite her and we set up our best blocker against her."
However, Kabalis caught fire, pounding three kills and stuffing Farm to give Moanalua a 22-18 lead en route to the opening-set win. Ponce had three aces before Game 2.
The Falcons seemed to fizzle after that. Moanalua went on a 16-3 tear to start the second game, and the Falcons didn't get a kill until Farm tapped one down to bring her team within 21-10.
"The momentum stopped at the end of Game 1. Maybe it could've been some discouragement," Waialae said.
Hoku Dela Cruz added two aces for Moanalua, last year's OIA runner-up. Perhaps the most promising indication of a title run was the play of sophomore setter Carsen Mata, who had 20 assists without a miscue.
"She's more consistent now," Kabalis said. "Her hands are better, a little softer."
Mata, who began learning the position last year after moving here from New Jersey, was solid on backsets to Ponce as well as feeds to her power hitters.
"As Carsen's location gets better, our hitting gets better," Moanalua coach Tommy Lake said, referring to the first game. Mata's confidence came with a busy offseason of tournaments, including a stint with the ASICS Rainbows.
Lake may continue with the same rotation.
"Sometimes she gets a slow start. In preseason, she was effective starting in the back row. Other teams don't know how to block her when she's back there, kind of like Aneli (Cubi-Otineru)," he said, referring to the former Punahou standout now playing for the Rainbow Wahine.
Kalani didn't surprise Lake.
"They have some size and they're kind of scrappy. We're kind of lucky they don't have another Rhianna," he said. "Someone else could step up for them. (Pulu) had some good swings in the first game, but they didn't get back to her."
Kabalis won't forget the Falcons.
"They have good talent. They'll get better during the season, so we don't want to take them lightly," she said. "I think we can do a lot better."
Kalani hosts defending OIA champion Roosevelt tomorrow. Moanalua travels to Kaiser.