Depth, defense spark Kamehameha in epic win over ‘Iolani

Kamehameha celebrated after scoring a point during the first set of the ILH Division 1 Girls Volleyball Championship match against Iolani on Thursday. Andrew Lee / Special to the Star-Advertiser.

On Tuesday, ‘Iolani played lights-out volleyball in a five-set win over previously unbeaten Kamehameha.

Epic? Certainly for outside hitter Elena Oglivie, who had 31 kills and only two hitting errors in 72 swings.

With the second-round title in the ILH at stake on Thursday, could the Raiders’ junior pull of another miraculous performance? She showed no ill effects 48 hours after the upset win. It was an 8-5 Kamehameha lead when she executed her first kill.

From there, she finished the first set with nine kills as ‘Iolani rallied for the opening-set win. Though the Raiders maintained enough momentum to have a 2-1 lead after three sets, Oglivie wasn’t quite the same. She had four kills and three hitting errors in the second game, then six kills and an ace with just one hitting error in the third.

The double-team blocks, the magnificent digging of Kamehameha’s back row, it all forced the home team to reach deeper for new solutions. It wasn’t to be.

Kamehameha’s come-from-behind 24-26, 25-21, 18-25, 25-19, 15-13 victory over Iolani was simply epic on both sides of the net. No. 1 over No. 2 in the Star-Advertiser Girls Volleyball Top 10. No. 6 over No. 8 in the USA Today national rankings. The longest rallies of the season. The most pancake digs, or digs in total, and by the end, the near-capacity crowd in ‘Iolani’s lower gym was feeling dizzy.

It was a 2-hour, 11-minute match that tested the limits of each team. Middle Kalina Obrey, a niece of ‘Iolani coach Kainoa Obrey, was one of the Warriors who stepped up in the clutch.

“ ‘Iolani’s a great team. They stayed composed and they played their hearts out. We just came together at the end and we just got that last point to take it home,” the senior said.

Malie McClure had a whopping 69 swings, and her final set was a complete roller coaster. She had two hitting errors that allowed ‘Iolani to tie the game at 13, but finished off the match with a kill on an overpass.

“Before going into this game, we knew that we had each other’s backs. It was go up and swing knowing my teammates had my back,” said McClure, who finished with 15 kills. “I know they were kind of (defending) the line more on me and Keilei (Keonilei Akana), so it was kind of hard. They worked really hard, but we wanted it really bad.”

“ ‘Iolani started to change up some stuff, so I’m very proud of our girls and our resilience and how they made the adjustments when they needed to,” Warriors coach Chris Blake said. “They served us really tough and our passing broke down, but we’re resilient. We’re battle tested. We’ve played each other six times, so there’s no secrets. No. 9 (Oglivie) did work as she usually does. No. 12 (Kristen McDaniel, 47 assists, three kills, two aces) did a great job setting, distributed things out. No. 11 (Mokihana Tufono) did great things on their side. We’re very happy to be in this position. We’re lucky to pull out this win. We really can’t wait to get back in the gym tomorrow and get back to work. It’s a great team win top to bottom.”

The Raiders got 21 kills in all from Oglivie, the 2016 Star-Advertiser all-state player of the year, in a tireless effort. Izzy Sakoda added 10 kills, Tufono had eight kills and two aces, and middle Sasha Petticord tallied seven kills and four blocks.

The problem is, Kamehameha is just that much deeper. The visitors tallied double-digit kill totals in each of the five sets. From Keonilei Akana (21 kills) to McClure (15) to Obrey (eight) and middle Braelyn Akana (seven), setter Lexis Akeo (49 assists, one ace) had more weapons than her counterpart, McDaniel. The only Warrior regular who didn’t get untracked was Maui Robins, but she complemented her one kill with two of her team’s four aces.

It was razor-thin, the margin for error between two even teams, at least on this night. Kamehameha hit just .185, but ‘Iolani was even lower at .137. ‘Iolani had a 7-4 edge in aces, but depth and execution were the slightest of advantages for Kamehameha.

In the final two sets, Kamehameha hit .127 and ‘Iolani hit .048. That included -.048 in the fourth set. In that game, Oglivie finally showed that she really isn’t Wonder Woman, going without a kill in 17 swings. She bounced back with two kills in the fifth set, when there were five lead changes and either team could have pulled off the win.

“We truly feel as a staff that whoever plays better that night will win,” Raiders coach Kainoa Obrey said.

The one lingering question for coaches and players is this: if ‘Iolani had won, why would the ILH championship match be played just 24 hours later, on Friday?

All the jumping and lateral movement, all the shoulder use from swinging, it doesn’t lend well to back-to-back days of volleyball when the rallies are this long. Coach Obrey said he has asked in years past why the title match, when needed, can’t be played two days later — on Saturday.

That won’t be a necessary question in 2018. But the endurance of Kamehameha’s back row, led by senior libero Paris Oliveira, was put to the test in a 48-hour span. The ‘Iolani back row, led by libero Grace Wee, also endured. For some of those long rallies, it was a pancake festivial.

Epic is too common a word for Thursday’s match. As fans filed out of Father Bray Athletic Complex, more than a few said it plainly. This was likely a preview of the state championship.

“Probably,” McClure said. “We know that all the teams want it and there’s a target on our back because we’re the defending state champions, but I think we’re going into the tournament really wanting it and play as hard as we can.”

For the Division I state tournament bracket, click here.

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