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Akana would not let Kamehameha's title streak die


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POSTED: Sunday, November 01, 2009

There was just simply no way Taylor Akana was going to end her career a loser.

The Kamehameha senior had won three straight Division I state championships. Her school had won four straight titles. It is a volleyball dynasty that was not going to end on her watch, with her bearing the brunt of the responsibility as the lone senior starter.

Akana responded with 21 digs and a team-high 19 kills, and the Warriors maintained their statewide supremacy with a dramatic 22-25, 25-18, 26-28, 25-23, 15-6 comeback victory to claim their fifth straight championship and 17th overall state crown.

“;She does a lot of things for us,”; Kamehameha coach Chris Blake said. “;It was her turn to step up. ... She definitely played her best match of the season the last match of the season.”;

All season long, Akana had been the team's floor leader among a young group that featured sophomore hitter Misty Ma'a, sophomore setter Kelci Renshaw, sophomore outside hitter Amanda Wasko and junior middle hitters Nicole Sniffen and Talia Jardin-Fermentez. Though she rarely led the team in kills, she was the stabilizing force for a talented but inexperienced bunch.

She was willing to take a back seat as the young stars shone. In the first three matches of Kamehameha's state tournament run, Akana totaled a mere 15 kills in three-game sweeps of Aiea, Waiakea and Kahuku. She had no more than seven kills in a single match.

But when it counted most, Akana was perfect. She had seven kills in the first two games combined. She scored the first point in the fifth and final set on a kill from the right side. Her perfect serve receive with Kamehameha holding a 9-4 lead allowed Renshaw to find Jardin-Fermentez on a perfectly timed quick set to the middle for another point.

“;She wanted to play to win,”; Renshaw said. “;She definitely did not want to lose this.”;

She finished with a team-high 19 kills, but she only committed two hitting errors on 41 swings, and she also added 21 digs while playing every point of the match.

“;I think everyone played for each other tonight,”; said co-captain Akana, refusing to put any of the spotlight on herself as the team celebrated its big win.

She also kept the team from getting rattled despite a controversial lift call late in the third set that broke a 26-all tie and gave Punahou a 27-26 lead and an eventual Game 3 victory that could have thwarted Kamehameha's title run.

It didn't, though, in part because of Akana's leadership, and instead she found herself celebrating what she called the most improbable championship she has been a part of.

“;It's amazing,”; Akana said of her third state title with the varsity team. “;Every year is such a different kind of team. Today was so back and forth. We had such great, long rallies. But we executed until the end.”;