For the powerful Kapolei Hurricanes, it may have felt like defeat by a thousand cuts.
No matter how many heavy balls the ‘Canes sent toward Moanalua’s side of the court, Na Menehune prevailed most of the night with Hula Crisostomo and Tayli Ikenaga leading the back-row resistance. The result: Kapolei took 123 swings, had 18 hitting errors and hit just .154 as Moanalua took the OIA Division I championship match 25-20, 27-25, 25-15 before a loud gathering of about 3,000 fans at McKinley Student Council Gymnasium.
Moanalua (14-0) captured its third league title in the last four years under Coach Alan Cabanting. Na Menehune didn’t have quite the height and power of Kapolei (12-1), but used their two-setter system to spread the Hurricanes’ block wide.
“We wanted to force them to move around and get them tired,” Cabanting said. “But somehow we blocked tonight. Tayli stabilized that back row with Hula. If we get a kill from Tayli, we get a kill.”
Ikenaga had just one kill in 10 swings during the opening set, but she kept attacking and finished with a team-high 11 kills, along with zero hitting errors after the first game.
Six Moanalua blocks made life a bit easier for the back row. Delylah Sanerivi had three of her team’s six blocks, adding two kills. Jeslyn Spencer, who had eight kills, added a block, and reserve middle Amaris Garcia had two blocks.
The wild and seemingly endless second set was epic. Kapolei had a whopping 58 swings, landing 16 kills — a total that normally is indicative of an easy set. Instead, the ‘Canes also had seven hitting errors, most on the tail end of long rallies, and hit .155 in that key game. Moanalua had just four hitting errors in 47 swings during the second set, and that modest advantage proved to be the difference statistically.
Emotionally, Moanalua was simply consistent and diverse in its attack. While setters Emily Dulaney (nine kills, nine assists, one ace) and Sara Ehnstrom (20 assists, four kills) spread the court, Spencer brought the power and Ikenaga brought the finesse when she wasn’t busy digging nearly everything in her reach.
Patience at the net is part of Moanalua’s DNA.
“After the first set, Coach Alan pointed out there were seams in the block,” Dulaney said. “We stuck to the game plan.”
Rainbeau Oliveira, a junior, added two kills and a final-set ace off the bench. It was a complete team win for a team that hit a modest .215, but had just two service errors to go with two aces, as well as six blocks.
The excitement of winning another title was thrilling for Na Menehune, but there was a sense of slightly subdued celebration.
“The feeling every year is we’re proud of our team no matter what,” said Dulaney, one of six seniors.
Now Moanalua has an opening-round bye as one of the seeded league champions in the New City Nissan/HHSAA State Championships, which begin on Monday.
“I don’t know,” Dulaney said, almost puzzled by a question about Moanalua’s possibilities at states. “I hope so. I believe we can.”