Star-Bulletin Sports

Monday, August 20, 2001


Roosevelt's Melissa Aki buried a loose ball against
Mira Costa At the Iolani Girls Invitational
Volleyball Tournament Thursday.

Harvard-Westlake repeats

By Grace Wen

The 19th annual Iolani Invitational volleyball tournament concluded late Saturday night.

The championship match between California powerhouses Mira Costa High School and preseason No. 3 Harvard-Westlake didn't start until 10:30 p.m., 312 hours behind schedule.

Tournament organizers, players and coaches didn't leave Iolani's lower gym until well past midnight.

It was the latest a championship match has started in the history of the tournament.

And it wasn't because the tournament wasn't organized. Tournament director and Iolani varsity coach Ann Kang had everything planned to a tee with matches played best two out of three and individual games limited to 20 minutes.

But no one informed the players, who stretched every match to capacity on Saturday. They scrambled, hustled and fought for every point and sideout as though their lives depended on it.

"The teams were so competitive and evenly matched," Kang said. "Some of these rallies are just unreal. It's very emotional, too, with double elimination. You lose one and you have to get ready to turn around and play another."

That was the case for Harvard-Westlake, which captured its second consecutive invitational title. The Wolverines swept the Mustangs 15-9 and 15-11 in the first match to force a deciding final game. Harvard-Westlake outlasted Mira Costa 15-11.

It may have only been a preseason tournament, but the two schools battled as though a state championship were on the line. And in some ways it was for Harvard-Westlake. The 2000 California Division III state champions began their remarkable run last year by winning the Iolani Invitational.

"Ever since we won state last year that's all they talk about," Harvard-Westlake coach Nigel Dookhoo said. "That's why they want to win it so badly. It was the first tournament that started it. After we won this one, we knew our chances were better than good."

Of the 20 teams that began the four-day tournament last Wednesday, eight of 10 California schools advanced to the championship bracket. Kang wanted the Iolani Invitational to be a showcase of the top teams in the nation and to provide Hawaii and California schools the opportunity to compete against each other.

"You have to give credit to Ann," Dookhoo said. "She runs a great tournament. It's a little tougher than last year. Mater Dei made it harder and Iolani made a great showing."

The Raiders finished fifth overall and had fun playing the various California squads.

"Height is an issue," noted Iolani junior Tiffany Chung. "It's different (but) it's good competition. We have to be scrappier because they're so much taller. Our block is useless."

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