Dedicated defense lifts ‘Iolani over Punahou

Iolani was clicking on all phases of the game against Punahou on Tuesday. Bruce Asato / Star-Advertiser

This could’ve been a serious trap.

The ‘Iolani Raiders are No. 2 in the Star-Advertiser Girls Volleyball Top 10. Hearts set on a run to the ILH and state finals. Clearly and definitively one of the two best teams in the islands. Chasing Kamehameha.

A Tuesday-night trip to Hemmeter Fieldhouse at Punahou easily could have been a trap match. Instead, the visiting Raiders stormed through the gates and withstood Punahou’s best run, during the second set, for a 25-14, 25-23, 25-14 sweep in the opening round of the ILH double-elimination tournament.

‘Iolani (7-3) will face Kamehameha (10-0) on Thursday.

“It’s trusting each other and sticking to what we’re doing and executing,” Raiders coach Kainoa Obrey said. “Defense is our thing and what we rely on. We’re not the biggest arms across the court, but if we can dig the ball and transition to better swings, make other teams earn their points. Punahou’s always going to be good and we always expect a good game from them.”

It hasn’t been as simple as hoped, of course. Naya Dong’s season-ending injury posed a potentially serious obstacle, but Grace Wee moved to libero and the Raiders are still digging everything in sight. Among the best in the back row is junior Elena Oglivie, who led ‘Iolani with 17 kills.

“We’re working hard on certain things, just executing better, serve-receiving,” Oglivie said. “I thought we all did some really good defense. Gracie did well and I felt Moki played some really good defense.”

Freshman Mokihana Tufono sprayed eight kills, including several from the right side, and middle Sasha Petticord had four of ‘Iolani’s eight blocks. The ILH’s D-I teams had last week off, just enough time to rejuvenate.

“We need to dig collectively. If we stay in our responsibility and discipline in our positions, then we’ll make more plays. The ball’s funneled to them and it’s up to us to execute and get a good swing,” Obrey said. “We have kids in different spots. We had an injury to Naya and Grace has done a great job moving into that position.”

Next up: No. 1 Kamehameha.

“You never know how it’s going to play out. We’re definitely in a better spot,” Obrey said. “We like where we’re at.”

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