Cowell Helps King Kekaulike Advance to State Semifinals
By Rodney S. Yap
King Kekaulike High School’s Chandler Cowell showed the state Thursday why she is among the best prep volleyball players in Hawaii.
Cowell had a match-high 24 kills and hit a blistering .388 to spark third-seeded King Kekaulike past Kalaheo — 20-25, 25-12, 25-13 and 25-23 — in quarterfinal action of the New City Nissan/HHSAA Division I Girls Volleyball State Championships at Moanalua gymnasium.
The Maui Interscholastic League champions improved to 15-0 on the season and earned a semifinal meeting with defending state champion Kamehameha Kapalama today at McKinley High School, beginning at 5 p.m.
The match will be broadcast live on OC16.
“We got off to a slow start, but I had faith in my team, I knew we could pull it off, we just had to play our game and play how we knew we could,” said Cowell, the 5-foot, 10-inch junior outside hitter.
After dropping the opening set to the Mustangs — only the third time the Upcountry school has dropped a set all year — the MIL champions found a rhythm by clamping down defensively.
King Kekaulike finished with 55 digs to Kalaheo’s 40, finding its flow at the defensive end first and eventually settling down offensively. The depth in Na Alii’s lineup allowed the Valley Isle team to turn things around, head coach Al Paschoal said afterwards.
“It’s definitely good to have and all year we’ve had girls step up, and we’re so proud of them.”
“Yeah I thought that was key and we used some of our timeouts early, and the girls made the adjustments and responded,” Paschoal added.
King Kekaulike fought back in the second and third sets behind the gritty play of Cowell, who took 49 of her team’s 128 swings, while committing just five errors.
“It was big,” the coach said of Cowell’s play. “That was a big-time performance tonight, and she definitely threw her name into the hat with some of the best outside hitters in the state for sure. She was playing high level ball way above the net. And she’s just a fiery competitor, nonstop, she was just tremendous.”
King Kekaulike got good back-row play from veteran Kiana Vandaele, who had nine digs and four service aces, and Shaina Uyechi had nine digs and eight assists.
“Kiana served lights out as usual, she passed well, and defensively she makes plays. I thought Shaina passed well, too.”
Paschoal also credited Mekaila Makahanaloa for her clutch play down the stretch.
“Makahana stepped in and I thought she just took over. She made some huge digs down the stretch that really helped us for sure.”
“In the first set I thought we would play better, but there were some little things that we weren’t taking care of. It’s the little things that matter because they belong to the big thing that we want to accomplish. And not taking care of the little things were causing us to lose points.
“It was about cleaning up our play from the beginning to the end, and that allowed us to trade points with them.
In the end, it was Cowell’s focus and determination that proved infectious, and collectively Na Alii were able to find their groove, bunching points together and eventually building some separation and momentum.
As for Kamehameha Kapalama, Paschoal said: “They are a top-notch squad and they are solid from the top to the bottom of their lineup.
“Hopefully our girls are up for the challenge. All we can do is step up to the challenge in front of us, that’s what they are taught. Some of our receivers are banged up, but I don’t think it’ll matter.
I think we need to take the game to them, that’s going to be our game plan tomorrow.”
Paschoal said his team is familiar with the Warriors.
“We’ve actually seen those girls in club play for the last four years. It’s going to be interesting. It’s going to come down to passing, and they have some really good servers. We have to stay in our system and try and slow them down a little bit. But they have the same concerns as us, I’m sure. “They are going to have to watch Chandler and I’m sure they are going to come up with a game plan to try and slow her. So we will have to mix things up a little.”
One thing Paschoal is sure about, it’s going to be a battle and he is confident that his team can battle with the best.
“That’s what I love the most about these girls, they fight ’til the end, and hopefully we will be able to bring a little more Maui magic tomorrow.”