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Roosevelt prevails


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POSTED: Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Roosevelt coach Kaui Mendonca watched his team roll over OIA opponents all regular season, but despite the Rough Riders' undefeated league record, he wasn't quite sure what kind of a team he had. Yes, they were talented, but could they dig deep when it counted most?

Yesterday, in an emotional Red Conference semifinal match against fellow unbeaten Waianae, the Rough Riders showed their mettle. Trailing 23-22 in each of the first three games, Roosevelt overcame the deficits and stunned the Seariders 26-24, 25-23, 24-26 and 25-22 yesterday at McKinley High School.

“;We learned a lot,”; Mendonca said of his team. “;We learned that we've got guts. I've questioned that a lot, but we learned that we've got guts, and we've got what it takes when our backs are against the wall.”;

Eighth-ranked Roosevelt advances to the OIA Red championship match tomorrow at McKinley. Fifth-ranked Waianae needs to win today's game against Mililani to force a rematch with Roosevelt. Mililani advanced in the losers bracket with a win over Leilehua.

After the loss, Waianae coach Fulton Dela Cruz could not explain how his team gave away the late-game leads it built. The Seariders are experienced with five seniors and one junior in the starting lineup, but uncharacteristic mental mistakes plagued the team down the stretch.

“;Seriously, I don't know what happened to us guys,”; Dela Cruz said. “;They were even up with us, but we just made more mistakes. We made the most mistakes.”;

In the first game, after Roosevelt fought back from an early deficit to tie the score at 13, the teams traded kill for kill and block for block. Ten ties through the rest of the game ended when Waianae hit the last two balls out of bounds.

In the second game, after leading 22-19, the Seariders committed two hitting errors, passed one ball over the net and was roofed on their one good swing to give Roosevelt a 2-0 lead in the match.

The third game seemed to follow the script with Waianae leading 23-22, but this time, a Roosevelt hitting error gave the Seariders the win.

Though Roosevelt slowly pulled ahead for a five-point cushion late in Game 4 (19-14), Waianae refused to go away quietly and made things interesting before the match ended, fittingly, with a Kenneth Rewick kill.

Rewick, a 6-foot-7 senior, and Waianae's Anthony Robinson had a fantastic one-on-one matchup through the evening. Robinson finished with 26 kills, while Rewick pounded home 24.

“;My arm is really sore,”; Rewick said after the victory with a smile. “;I pushed myself through this.”;

But while the Seariders rode Robinson's lively right arm, Rewick had more help from teammates Kainoa Mitchell, Aaron Mochizuki and Aris Wong, all of whom carried the offensive load at times for the Rough Riders.

“;Our team showed the toughness that when their backs are against the wall, they can come out and keep swinging,”; Mendonca said. “;We've never been really pushed to that limit in OIA so far.”;