JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Iolani's Leinani Keanini put down a kill past Sacred Hearts' Maia Miller last night.
Iolani overcomes miscues to win
The Iolani Raiders came as guests, but served their hosts a dose of heartbreak on senior night.
The top-ranked Raiders overcame a multitude of early mistakes to rally past No. 6 Sacred Hearts 21-25, 25-10, 25-19 before a frenzied crowd of about 200 at the Lancers' gym.
Iolani improved to 14-0 and kept its lead in the Interscholastic League of Honolulu. The Raiders will visit second-place Punahou (13-1) on Saturday, needing a win to claim the first-round title and an automatic berth in the state tournament.
Seniors Leinani Keanini and Lauren Minkel powered the Raiders. Keanini pounded 13 kills, including six in the decisive third game. Minkel had eight kills and three of Iolani's seven service aces to help her team overcome early serving miscues.
Serving turned out to be a key factor of the match, as it was two weeks ago when Iolani upended then-unbeaten Kamehameha. This time, the Raiders were in hostile territory and noise in Sacred Hearts' tiny gym was an undeniable factor.
"When we go back there, sometimes we kind of rush," Minkel said. "It was a really loud crowd. We had to relax and focus."
Setter Mali'e Yoon was another key contributor with 31 assists and six kills. Five of the kills came on perfectly-placed dump shots.
Haililani Pokipala led the Lancers with 12 kills. "I think, regardless, we had teamwork and we played with a lot of heart," the senior said.
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Sacred Hearts' Kapiolani Rapoza finessed a kill past the defense of Iolani's Lauren Minkel, left, and Chelsea Hardin during an ILH volleyball game between Iolani and Sacred Hearts yesterday in Kaimuki.
Sacred Hearts, which dropped to 9-5 in league play, was already out of the running for the first-round title. However, the Lancers have the second-round, single-elimination tournament ahead. With three state-tourney berths in the ILH this season, the Lancers are clearly a contender. Sacred Hearts pushed each of the top three teams -- Iolani, Kamehameha and Punahou -- to three-game battles.
"We learned from our mistakes in the first round," Pokipala said. "Iolani is real good and they have great talent, but we have great talent also."
Middle blocker Mac-Alexandra Mitravich had three of her five blocks in the opening set, and defensive specialist Jamie Asuncion came up with several digs as the Lancers won the game.
They fell behind 11-6, but junior Kylee Maneja's serving sparked a rally, and Pokipala came up with two roofs during an 8-0 run. Trailing 14-11, Iolani came back to tie the set at 18-all, but serving errors allowed the Lancers to take command. Maneja finished the game off with a pair of kills.
After committing four service errors, Iolani cleaned up and had only two more in the final two games. Yoon, Minkel and Keanini combined for four aces as the Raiders dominated the second game. They took advantage of 13 errors by Sacred Hearts.
The final game was a stalemate most of the way, but a kill by Pokipala, a block by Maneja and a hitting error by Minkel gave the Lancers an 18-17 lead. After an Iolani timeout, however, the tide turned one last time.
Yoon added one more dump shot against a surprised Lancer defense, and Iolani went on a 6-0 blitz. An ace by Minkel and another kill by Keanini lifted the Raiders to a 23-18 lead, and Keanini finished off the match with her final two kills.
"The crowd and the environment were real loud," Iolani coach Jenic Tumaneng said, now looking ahead to Punahou. "This benefited us to get ready."
Sacred Hearts will visit St. Andrew's Priory on Saturday to close first-round play. "As long as they pass well and serve well, they can play with anybody," Lancers coach Derwin Tsutsui said.