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Seniors bid aloha to prep game with TV match


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POSTED: Saturday, November 14, 2009

Not so long ago, girls volleyball was largely underground, a sport that was mostly neglected.

My, how things have changed. Yesterday's matchups in the second annual OC 16 Senior Invitational included players who are heading to universities near and far next season. The televised event, a brainchild of OC 16's Dave Vinton, has quickly become entrenched in a volleyball culture that produces dozens of college players from the islands annually.

That's why Kahuku's representative, Amanda Tonga, was happy to be there despite a busy week of travel from Kahuku to Sacred Hearts Academy's gym for practice. Waialua's Leia Lendio also made the commitment, one of many she's made through her after-school activities. Lendio has been the Web editor of Waialua's renowned robotics team since she was an eighth-grader.

Their team, the East All-Stars, fell to the South 17-25, 25-20, 25-23, 25-22 on a sultry night at McKinley Student Council Gym. Tonga had eight kills and three aces, while Taylor Akana (Kamehameha) had a team-high 14 kills and three aces. Ruth Tusi (University) had 12 assists, seven kills and two aces, and Ayesha Hein added seven kills over the middle.

The match was a swan song for all participants in the two-day event. Farrington's Fenumiai Tofilau capped her stellar career with 20 kills and an ace for the South All-Stars, while Juliana Behrens (Punahou) added 10 kills and two aces. Jamie Asuncion (Sacred Hearts) had four aces, while Kaua Cale (Kalaheo) and Nycole Misaki (Kailua) combined for 32 assists.

Behrens, who played through the state tournament with an injury, is healthy again and signed with Cincinnati on Wednesday.

“;It's my last day of high school volleyball,”; the 6-foot-1 outside hitter said. “;It's been fun 'cause it's different girls and with only three or four practices, everything was exciting and new.”;

The nightcap featured college-bound athletes like Hawaii Baptist's Sarah Palmer (Texas) and Mid-Pacific's Keaton McFadden (Portland State basketball).

Even for coaches, the game has opened doors. Kaimuki coach Donovan Martinez was back in familiar territory.

“;I started off coaching here at McKinley,”; said Martinez, who also played for the Tigers. He's moving to Sacramento, Calif., in January and may coach club or high school volleyball there.

“;I feel very privileged to coach these wonderful girls. They're from different backgrounds, but when they all come together, they realize we have one goal. That's pretty neat.”;

Coaching Tonga, he added, was a treat.

“;Whatever school gets her will be really happy,”; Martinez said. “;She's a very likable person and very coachable.”;

Mililani's Val Crabbe, who coached the South team with Maryknoll's Lee Lamb, enjoyed the experience.

“;We had girls that want to practice, so it was a piece of cake,”; she said. “;People came from far away to practice.”;