Kamehameha holds off Iolani in ILH championship match
With a deafening overflow crowd in rival Iolani's gym as the backdrop, Kamehameha's Kanani Herring elevated above it all -- the hostile spectators, the noise, and the 3-meter line -- and crushed a set from Caitlin Andrade straight down Iolani's pipe for the Interscholastic League of Honolulu championship.
The third and final match of the ILH season between the top two teams in the state didn't disappoint, as the top-ranked Warriors held off the feisty No. 2 Raiders 25-22, 27-25, sweeping Iolani for the second time in four days.
Herring, the two-time Star-Bulletin state player of the year, pounded 15 kills, including the match-winner before delirious Kamehameha fans streamed onto the court. Middle blocker Bekah Torres added eight kills, while Jordan Meredith and Alex Akana had four apiece.
"All I did was have faith in my teammates," Herring said of her thoughts on the final point. "It was all the support I had from them, and I knew, 'OK, we need to take care of business now.' If that last set is on me, I gotta do my best to put it away."
Kamehameha (19-1) earned the ILH's seed in the upcoming New City Nissan Girls Volleyball State Championships in Hilo, granting the Warriors an opening-round bye.
Iolani (16-2) now must regroup after suffering its only losses of the season following a 16-0 start that earned the Raiders an early state berth as the first-round champion. Iolani had its chance to clinch the ILH's top spot in the league's tournament title game over the weekend, but lost to Kamehameha, forcing yesterday's tie-breaking final match.
"(Playing Kamehameha twice) will definitely keep us at that level of being ready to play," Iolani coach Jenic Tumaneng said. "That's something we're going to pull over to the state tournament. They're the (two-time) defending champs, and they played that way. To be one, you gotta beat them."
In September, his team was able to do just that. After the Warriors claimed the opening game, the Raiders rallied for the next two games and handed Kamehameha its lone league loss of the year.
Leinani Keanini, Iolani's star hitter, had eight kills yesterday -- including a stunner off the Warriors' defense to cap a 4-1 run through two Kamehameha match points and get the crowd (about two-thirds pro-Raiders) involved. It was the Raiders' lone game point, at 25-24, before they were put away by Herring and Co.
"I think this time we fought and played with heart, and we played with passion for the game," Keanini said. "But Kamehameha brought it this game. The better team today won."
A rare Raiders service error tied it up at 25, and Iolani was unable to return a difficult ball to put the advantage back in the Warriors' court.
They didn't waste their third chance to end it. Andrade sharply fed Herring for her 28th and final assist.
"We work really well as a team together," Andrade said. "I knew she would put it away for us. We just had to remain calm and focused."
Kamehameha coach Chris Blake was confident his team would respond to the game's tense moments. Neither team earned a separation of more than three points in Game 2.
"We settled down, did our thing, and the girls had that look of confidence that they were going to come up and do what we had to do," Blake said. "I'm really proud of the girls and what they did."
After Game 1 was tied at 18, Kamehameha outscored Iolani 7-4 behind two kills apiece from Herring and Torres.