Aiea moves closer to first state spot since 2013

Aiea’s Leslie Mamai-Lagafuaina tipped the ball as Kalani’s Ashley Wang and Cameron Woods (12) defended on Wednesday. Cindy Ellen Russell / Star-Advertiser

She’s one of just two seniors on the Aiea girls volleyball team, but Leslie Mamai-Lagafuaina embraces her role as a leader.

The 6-foot-2 outside hitter blasted 21 kills as Aiea outlasted Kalani 25-14, 22-25, 25-20, 25-21 on a muggy Wednesday night at Farrington’s Richard Kitamura Fieldhouse. Aiea advanced to the quarterfinal round of the OIA Division I playoffs.

Mamai-Lagafuaina added an ace and a block for Na Alii (8-3), who will play East Division top seed Moanalua on Thursday night. The win means Aiea has a chance to qualify for the state tourney even it loses to Moanalua. Kalani (7-5) saw its season end despite a gritty effort defensively by back-row dynamos Chara Higaki and Asia Jhun.

“It was our preparation. We really wanted to win this game,” Mamai-Lagafuaina said, referring to the longer matches of the postseason.

Na Alii also knew what to expect after splitting sets with Kalani during McKinley’s preseason tournament.

Mamai-Lagafuaina was on fire with seven kills in the opening set. In total, Aiea had double Kalani’s kill total, 32-16, but the Lady Falcons kept it close with better ball control.

In the second set, Na Alii had seven hitting errors and six double hits. Kalani also had aces from Higaki and Jhun to rally from a four-point deficit.

“He was calling it super tight, but he was consistent. We had to adjust,” Aiea coach Blythe Yamamoto said.

The lead changed hands five times in the third set before Kaimana Botelho-Patoc’s roll shot gave Aiea a 15-14 lead. Mamai-Lagafuaina added two kills and an ace as her team pulled away for a 2-1 edge.

Kalani bounced back and led 12-6 in the fourth set, but Aiea went on a 14-5 run to take the lead for good. Tina Betham’s kill ended the match, but during the celebration on the bench, sophomore middle Precious Tauanuu injured an ankle.

Na Alii will have to be ready for Moanalua with or without Tauanuu.

“We’re going against a big team, so we have to be on top of our defense mentally and physically,” Mamai-Lagafuaina said. “And not play scared.”

Betham, a 5-10 senior, added 10 kills and one of Aiea’s six aces. Tauanuu tallied eight kills, two aces and one block. Setter Hoku Cachola finished with 38 assists and two aces.

Shaena-Lyn Noda had nine kills to pace Kalani. Ashley Wang, Cameron Woods and Maya Hamaoka each had seven kills, Angela Pacheco chipped in six. Setter Kelsie Nakashima added 36 assists, two kills, two aces and one block.

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