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Kamehameha savors another championship


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POSTED: Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Chris Blake gets a lot of mileage out of his little black composition book.

During Kamehameha volleyball matches, it serves as a shield while he instructs his players, particularly for pre-serve directions. The Kamehameha physics teacher also stores ideas and inspiration on those pages, the kind that trigger the start of offseason training, then weave through the complexities of a full season.

Five years in a row, Blake has figured out the nuances of lifting his team to state titles. After Saturday's epic 22-25, 25-18, 26-28, 25-23, 15-6 victory over No. 1-seeded Punahou in the Division I final of the New City Nissan/HHSAA Girls Volleyball State Championships, few challenges remain. University High School once won seven titles in a row, from 1984 to '90.

Twice, the Warriors lost to Punahou during the regular season, but they played their best volleyball at season's end.

“;We always want to play our best in the last match of the year,”; Blake said.

He also said the same the last few seasons; it's one of the many volleyball mantras in his black book.

Timing factored into this year's campaign. Sophomore setter Kelci Renshaw was untested when the season started, but locked in and became the glue of the offense, delivering 52 assists in the state final.

Kamehameha's defensive dominance was key. Punahou hitters Tai Manu-Olevao (.169) and Juliana Behrens (.099) combined for 154 swings and 44 kills, but were often negated by a relentless Kamehameha block led by Nicole Sniffen, Misty Ma'a and Talia Jardin-Fermentez.

Chelsey Keoho led Kamehameha's back row with 38 digs.

The biggest difference came in the final set, when Blake inserted Pikake Laumana. The 6-foot-1 freshman frustrated the Buffanblu at the net with her reach, giving the Warriors one more lethal weapon.

“;She's a great, great kid,”; Blake said. “;We saw some things in her that we could develop over the season. She went in there and adjusted so many balls and fed them to our libero.”;

Co-captain Cara Rosehill was another key contributor off the bench with three kills and 11 digs.

“;Cara solidified a lot of things up front and with our serve-receive,”; Blake said of the Delaware-bound senior.

Breyandi Andrade also played well, providing Blake with a bench that had almost no drop-off.

When things got tough, down 14-8 in the fourth set, they rose to a new level of intensity. Blake saw it on the floor, but he was even more amazed while watching the TV replay.

“;Seeing the look in their eyes in Game 4 and Game 5, that was something,”; he said. “;Once the switch went on in Game 4, we knew it would be tough for Punahou to stop us.

Co-captain Taylor Akana, the tourney's most outstanding player, was indispensable: 19 kills (.415) and 21 digs.

“;She has such genuine happiness for her teammates,”; Blake said. “;There was no way she was going to let them down. Her court vision translates very well to Division I (college), and she'll probably be a libero, but for us, she had to do everything.”;

Coachable players make life easier for Blake and his crew. In fact, he left them with one more piece of instruction as the season ended.

“;Our girls understand the burden of what they've created. All the runs, all the training they've done paid off,”; he said. “;But they're talking about next year. Hey, let's enjoy this for at least one night. Let's enjoy this for now.”;