Moanalua surprises Kahuku with sweep
There's no time better than the present for Na Menehune of Moanalua.
Putting their ups and downs behind them, Na Menehune swept past No. 4-ranked Kahuku 25-19, 25-23 last night at Moanalua's gym. They did it in a way coach Tommy Lake could only dream of.
"The players had a big hand in our game plan. I always tell our captains to give me ideas," he said of Kaleinani Kabalis and Carsen Mata. "Kalei really pulled the team together from a leadership standpoint. She really got them to buy into more of a team concept."
Kabalis, a senior jack-of-all-trades, pounded nine kills and four service aces. She also had four assists and a handful of remarkable digs as Moanalua improved to 7-4 in Oahu Interscholastic Association Red East play. Na Menehune secured third place and home-court advantage for the opening round of the playoffs.
Kahuku dropped to 9-2, but already has a first-round bye in the playoffs.
"They normally pound away," Kahuku coach Uila Fotu Mendiola said of Moanalua. "But they were mixing it up. We had to adjust."
Leilani Tafuna had five kills for Kahuku, well below her normal total. Moanalua's tough serving kept the visitors off balance for most of the night, and Tafuna didn't get her normal count of swings. Alayna Galeai added five kills and two blocks.
"We showed effort at the end. Moanalua's tough. You can't give them that kind of a lead," Mendiola said. "Their biggest player (Kabalis) is back, they had a large crowd with lots of noise. It's all a factor."
A raucous senior night crowd of about 600 energized Moanalua, which got off to slow starts in both games. Kahuku led 3-0 in Game 1, but Moanalua went on a 9-2 run to take command. Two kills and two aces by Kabalis fueled the rally.
The visitors were within 17-14 when their mistakes allowed Moanalua to score five unanswered points to put the game away. Kaylee Ponce had five of her six kills in the first game.
Kahuku zoomed to a 5-0 lead in Game 2, but again, Moanalua rallied. Down 7-6, Na Menehune went on an 8-2 run. Kabalis blasted three aces as Moanalua took a 14-8 lead
Kahuku pulled within 18-15, but Kabalis and Latricia Taifane delivered key kills as Moanalua opened a 23-17 lead.
Kills by Lavinia Latu, Tafuna and Amanda Tonga brought the visitors within 23-21, and after an ace by Nina Blake, Kahuku was one point behind at 24-23.
Sarah Robinson then put the game away with a kill from the middle off a set from Kabalis. Robinson finished with five kills and a block, while Ponce had six kills.
The taller Lady Raiders had five blocks in the match, including three in the opening game, but couldn't quite dominate Moanalua the way they did in the first matchup at Kahuku a few weeks ago.
"I tried to come up with a blocking lineup," Kabalis said of her input to Lake. "But more importantly, we had bonding team meetings. That was really good. Everybody contributed equally."
Taifane, a junior, agreed.
"Because of our encouragement to each other, if we make a mistake, we just scratch it. We live in the now," she said. "Not in the past."