King Kekaulike Enjoys Perfect Season With Tourney Crown
By Rodney S. Yap
Making effective use of its timeouts, the King Kekaulike High School girls volleyball team erased a pair deficits in the closing stages of sets No. 2 and No. 4 en route to preserving a perfect 14-0 Maui interscholastic League record.
Kekaulike added the 2016 MIL Tournament championship on its home court Friday night to go with the MIL regular-season Division I championship and the team’s third consecutive MIL overall championship.
“Those timeouts let’s us reset,” said King Kekaulike head coach Al Paschoal after the match. “We get a little away from the game plan, and those timeouts gives everybody a chance to calm down and when they come off the bench its like having a new team and it’s 0-0.”
King Kekaulike closed out the match by going to Chandler Cowell almost exclusively down the stretch and the junior outside-hitter responded with kill after kill from the left side of the court. Crowell finished with a match-high 14 kills, including three of the last four.
Sophomore setter Kalena Vaivai added seven kills and 25 assist, including “Aloha Ball” to senior Rina-Jade Kalama. Kalama’s eighth kill triggered a loud celebration from the King Kekaulike cheering section and the team’s bench.
The game-winner, which Kalama angled in between the block attempts of Kamehameha Maui’s Logan Spencer and Kimani Fernandez-Roy, celebrated the Upcountry school’s second come-from-behind victory Friday. Na Alii also trailed KS-Maui 20-17 late in the second set and won, 25-14, 25-22, 19-25, 25-23.
When asked about the timeout he called in the second set, trailing 20-17, Paschoal said, “Oh yeah, I remember, and it was 20-20 in a blink of an eye.”
“Because the match is so long, and there are so many long rallies in a game like this, so it’s easy to forget your responsibilities sometimes and taking that quick break really helps. It helps them to refocus and sometimes you also get lucky.”
Throughout the match, it seemed like Na Alii collectively responded in a positive manner after Paschoal called timeout.
Both teams will be representing the MIL at the upcoming New City Nissan Girls Volleyball State Championships on Oahu, beginning Monday, Oct. 24 through Saturday, Oct. 29. The championship and third-place game will be played at the Blaisdell Arena.
The Warriors (10-4) will tip-off the 12-team state tournament at home Monday, Oct. 24, against Farrington at 3:45 p.m.
“Our girls have had to go through some adversity because of injuries and still that was probably the best we’ve played all year,” said Kamehameha Maui head coach Bala Spencer. “Things didn’t go our way off the bat, but we just kept adjusting, and fighting and fighting.”
Kamehameha Maui was led by freshman Hoala Alapai’s 11 kills. Senior Kylee Yamashita and junior Talia Leauanae each had eight and junior setter Aliah Ayau finished with 33 assists.
The Warriors’ 25-19 third-set victory snapped King Kekaulike’s straight-set victories at 35.
In preparing for Na Alii, Spencer said the team made sure to dot the i’s and cross the t’s,
“We had them focus on the little things, and they realized that all these little things are actually big things, and that’s what got them to focus on playing one point at a time — and not to get too up, or too down.”
When asked how proud he was of the girls, Coach Paschoal responded: “Oh my God, I don’t have the words to say how proud I am of them. To comeback in two sets from being down and to win those two sets. Every girl had a challenge tonight and every girl stepped up or had someone help them step up tonight. And I am more proud of that than anything else.”
The Warriors’ inability to protect its lead coming out of a timeout, “is part of the game,” Spencer said. “I’m proud of the girls . . . that’s a seasoned team we played and i think they are going to do really well next week. I’m happy with the way our girls responded.”
King Kekaulike was awarded the No. 3 seeding at the state tournament and will play the winner of Mililani vs. Kalaheo on Thursday, Oct. 27, at Moanalua High School, beginning at 5 p.m.
Not having returning senior all-star Selai Damuni, who transferred to a school in Utah over the summer, hurt the team’s chemistry at the beginning of the season, Spencer agreed.
“It was hard, but this team isn’t about just one girl, we have several girls and these girls are competitors, and we don’t have all-year-round volleyball players, we have softball players, we have paddlers, we have basketball players.”
In fact, the coach added: “I’ve been less of a coach this season and more of a teacher of the game.”
Paschoal said his team’s volleyball IQ is high, which is good and bad.
“The coach is always the most nervous guy in the house,” Paschoal said.
“Sometimes I joke that the team is so good that it we don’t win, it’s my vault. But this league is not a pushover and Kamehameha proved that tonight.”
All the excitement afterwards had Paschoal thinking of one thing.
“I can’t wait to go home and take a nap,” Paschoal said.
The state tournament’s other seeded teams are No. 1 Kahuku, No. 2 Kamehameha Kapalama, and No. 4 Hilo. Other first-round matchups include Moanalua at Iolani, Kapolei at Waiakea, and Kalaheo at Mililani.