Moanalua wins Longy Okamoto Tournament

by Paul Honda on August 13, 2009

They aren’t the tallest team, but Moanalua captured its second tournament crown in a one-week span on Saturday.

Na Menehune outlasted Aiea in the final matchup of gold bracket play in the three-day Longy Okamoto Girls Volleyball Tournament on Saturday at Na Alli’s gym.

With a 6-0 mark in the gold bracket, Moanalua need to win just one of its two sets against Aiea (5-1) to claim the title. Moanalua took a 14-6 lead and held on a 25-23 win to clinch it.

Aiea won the final set 24-19.

Sophomore Erin Perez and Ana Ponce helped Moanalua while senior setter Carsen Mata directed traffic. Senior Gabby Matautia, a transfer from Kapolei, is fitting in nicely with her new team.

Moanalua won McKinley’s tournament earlier in the week. Coach Tommy Lake believes Aiea is going to contend in the Oahu Interscholastic Association.

“They’re pretty athletic and they’ve got good size for an OIA team,” he said. “They look like one of the strongest teams.”

He noted the play of Aiea setter Kelly Leopoldo, who has switched from outside hitter this season.

“Her and the libero are really good,” Lake said.

The play of Moanalua’s underclassmen is a welcome boost. Junior hitter Courtney Calicdan suffered a knee injury in the offseason.

Kylee Oshiro is a strong softball player, but has found her volleyball groove.

“She played really well today,” Lake said of the backrow standout.

Aiea coach Blythe Yamamoto wasn’t surprised with her team’s solid performance.

“I knew we’d be pretty competitive. I just wanted to see how we’d come together as a team,” she said. “We’re happy where we’re at. We’ve only been together two weeks since tryouts.”

Aiea’s athletic outside hitters, returning OIA Red West first-team picks Mele Samisoni and Danielle Grace had a good tournament, as did springy 5-foot-5 Ashley Liilii. Leopoldo, though, is the glue.

“She’s making the transition (to setter). She knows being 5-4, outside hitter’s not a position she’ll play at the next level,” Yamamoto said. “Setter is her natural position.”

Aiea has no tournaments left in preseason, but may schedule some exhibition matches. Down the road, Na Alii could have a rematch with Moanalua in the OIA playoffs.

“In the OIA, the gaps have closed. It’s going to be who can be mentally stronger than the next team,” Yamamoto said.

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