Na Alii Girls Show Talent and Depth in Win Over KS-Maui
By Rodney S. Yap
The first episode of the Maui Interscholastic League’s “must see” girls volleyball matches was held Tuesday at King Kekaulike High School gymnasium.
An estimated crowd of 350 watched Na Alii’s bounce back from a one-set deficit against cross-town rival Kamehameha Schools Maui en route to a four-set victory, 20-25, 25-16, 25-19, 25-16.
“It came down to ball control and then girls just settling in,” said unbeaten King Kekaulike (3-0) head coach Al Paschoal. “I like what I’ve seen in our leadership. I have Kalena Vaivai and Chandler (Cowell) stepping up big. Kalena is taking on a big role setting all the way around some times, and she has such an arm that we are finding ways to get her swings, too. So there is a lot to work with, I’m blessed this year.”
The talents of both setter Vaivai and outside hitter Cowell were prominent Tuesday as the pair combined for 13 kills, 15 digs, and three aces. Vaivai also had 23 assists and Cowell one block.
The much-improved play from the duo could not come at a better time as the two-time MIL defending Division I champions are without two-time Player of the Year Treyanna-Lee Freitas, who graduated in May and is currently playing Libero at Washington State University.
Both Vaivai and Cowell are underclassmen, one a sophomore and the other a junior, respectively. Surrounding the pair are eight seniors, including several times-year veterans, four juniors and sophomore left-hander Nina Macphetridge is proving to be another outside weapon two weeks into this young girls volleyball season.
Rina-Jade Kalama added nine kills and four digs, Shaina Uyechi had four aces and 11 digs, and Rose Love chipped in three kills and four blocks.
“But by no means is it going to be an easy road and I think Kamehameha showed that tonight. So it’s going to be an interesting year,” Paschoal added.
In the fourth set, Kamehameha Maui trimmed King Kekaulike’s lead to five, 16-11, before Paschoal called time out. The timely break caused the Warriors to commit an error on the ensuing serve and the visitors never got closer than six the rest of the way.
Kylee Yamashita led KS-Maui (2-1) with 14 kills and Kimani Fernandez-Roy added 10.
“We had a really good preseason. We went to Hana and spent a lot of days there, we were able to answer a lot of questions about our team and we had fun working out with the Hana team. Then we attended the Kapalama Challenge right before the start of our season and that helped tremendously. We played Kahuku and gave them a run for their money.
“So the girls have a nice level of confidence right now and so I’m proud of the way they were able to answer the call tonight when they were pushed.”
Paschoal said it is not easy juggling a roster with as much talent and depth as this year’s team possess.
“It’s not easy when you have that many girls who are working hard in practice and putting numbers on the board like this group. Spots are being earned everyday in practice and the competitive environment in the gym is really helping our team chemistry.”