Slick ball on muggy night can’t stop Aiea

Aiea’s Leslie Mamai-Lagafuaina (18), Trinity Atuatasi (22) and Precious Tauanuu (16) celebrated a kill by Mamai-Lagafuaina (18) on Wednesday. Cindy Ellen Russell / Star-Advertiser

For a stretch, a dominant Aiea squad couldn’t seem to get a handle on the volleyball.

After rolling to a 25-14 win over Kalani in the opening set, the air in Farrington’s Walter Kitamura Fieldhouse seemed to thicken. Oven-ish came to mind. And the ball seemed more like an sphere covered in grease. Aiea committed six double hits and added seven hitting errors as Kalani tied the match with a 25-22 win.

“He was calling it tight, but consistent,” Aiea coach Blythe Yamamoto said.

Aiea (8-3) did adjust, taking the next two sets for a 25-14, 22-25, 25-20, 25-21 playoff win. Leslie Mamai-Lagafuaina, one of just two seniors, powered her way for 21 kills. By the final set, she had Kalani’s persistent defenders on her heels, so he dropped in a few roll and tip shots.

“They can dig everything,” she said of Kalani. “So our practices prepared us for them.”

Now Na Alii are in the quarterfinals of the OIA playoffs, but they’ll meet perennial powerhouse Moanalua on Thursday night. And they might have to play without sophomore Tina Betham. The middle blocker had 10 kills and an ace against Kalani, but hurt an ankle while celebrating at the bench after Aiea scored on aloha point.

Aiea hit a healthy .302, limiting Kalani to a .123 hitting percentage.

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