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StarBulletin.com

Warriors win ILH


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POSTED: Sunday, November 02, 2008

They like nothing more than to be written off.

Whether it was about losing All-State players to graduation, falling in the first-round title playoff match or anything else, the Kamehameha Warriors almost want to be doubted.

After yesterday, there is no doubt.

Taylor Akana walloped 12 kills and Alex Akana had 11 with three blocks as Kamehameha swept Punahou 25-17, 25-21, 27-25 to capture the Interscholastic League of Honolulu girls volleyball championship before 1,000 fans at Kekuhaupio Gym.

"A lot of people doubted us in the beginning, saying that it was a rebuilding year, but it's not," Alex Akana said.

Coach Chris Blake has guided the Warriors to four league crowns, but he also used those early doubts about the team as fuel—even though Kamehameha was voted by media and coaches No. 1 in preseason. Now, they'll seek a fourth straight state title this week.

"We were down in every game. We had great execution of team defense," he said. "When you're down, you have to play perfect volleyball and our girls understand that."

Kamehameha, the league's tournament winner, toppled the regular-season champs despite staggering along on the ropes in each of the three sets. The Warriors (17-2), ranked No. 2 in the Star-Bulletin Top 10, will have the league's seeded berth and a first-round bye in this week's New City Nissan/HHSAA Girls Volleyball State Championships.

Top-ranked Punahou (16-3), which won that first-round tiebreaker on Oct. 14 at Kekuhaupio, has the ILH's other state berth.

Buffanblu coach Jim Iams can see a state championship in Punahou's future, but winced just thinking about his team's inconsistency.

"We talked about this being a statement game and one team did make a statement. We had the lead in every game and couldn't do it. Kamehameha is just better right now," Iams said. "We played really well, but sometimes we go from really well to pilau. When we play well, we can play with them."

Nine service errors, with just three aces, were crucial factors for Punahou.

Kamehameha's balance was another key. Talia Jardin, alternating in the middle with Alex Akana, finished with seven kills and 1 1/2 blocks. Whitney Viveiros also had seven kills, and Caitlyn Andrade finished with 34 assists and four kills.

It was not, despite the three-set sweep, an easy win by any means for Kamehameha.

"Punahou did really good. They pushed us hard to fight for the title," Andrade said. "But our team is mentally focused."

Anuhea Keanini led Punahou with nine kills against a resilient Kamehameha defense. Tai Manu-Olevao added seven kills, while Charlotte Fonua and Juliana Behrens chipped in five kills each.

"Anu is the glue of that team. She's what makes them want to play with heart and desire," Blake said.

Punahou opened the match with a 7-3 lead, but the Warriors took command with a 14-5 run. Despite hitting .429 with just one hitting error, the Buffanblu got no closer than 17-14 the rest of the way.

The visitors led 13-9 in the second set after middle Brigitte Russo had a block and a kill to spark a run of six straight points. However, untimely hitting errors and standout plays by Viveiros turned the tide. She had three kills and an ace as Kamehameha rallied for a 22-16 lead. Keanini's ace brought Punahou within 22-20, but Alex Akana had two roofs in a row as the Warriors won the second set.

The Buffanblu led the third set 20-17 after a serve by Ali Santi trickled over the net for an ace, and a couple of Kamehameha miscues gave Punahou a five-point lead. However, Kamehameha rallied again and took a 25-24 lead on Jardin's kill on a misplaced pass by Punahou—thanks to a tough serve by Alex Akana.

A kill by Russo tied it at 25-all, but a service error and hitting error on the next two plays by Punahou ended the match.

The two teams have faced off five times, including a preseason battle won by the Warriors. Kamehameha has won four of the matchups.