The evolution happens every season in the ILH.
One team takes a lead. The rest are forced to adapt and survive. Or fade away.
Kamehameha’s 25-18, 26-24 win over previously unbeaten Punahou on Thursday night begins a new chapter in the rivalry between the two girls volleyball powerhouse programs. With the key win, the Warriors moved into a first-place tie with the previously unbeaten Buffanblu at 5-1 in the Interscholastic League of Honolulu standings.
“For us I think it was more defense, being on our toes and being ready for those weird shots, the short angle shots that they were beating us on, that was a big one for us,” said Kahahawai, who had 12 kills. “And Jackie on 2. That’s what we really needed to work on.”
Jackie is Jaclyn Matias, Punahou’s crafty distributor and setter.
“The setter last time was ultra effective. We were able to be ready for her attack,” Kamehameha coach Chris Blake said. “We fought through some adversity. It’s a great team win for us. We did really well in set one, and Punahou fought back at the end and carried that momentum in set two.”
Punahou jumped to a 15-9 lead in set two. Blake called time out at 17-11 and as he does occasionally, gave his players plenty of space.
“The coaches were in their own group so we were kind of together and everyone just chimed in, saying their little things and giving us feedback, pointers. Hyping each other up, but at the same time giving each other some pointers,” Kahahawai said. “So I think it helped us as a team to come together at that time. Coming out of that time out, that’s how we pushed through.”
Blake enjoyed the lengthy time outs.
“With the TV time outs you have a lot more time. Our leaders are Kahiau and Maui, our captains, and Devin as well, they’ve been through these kind of things before. We’ve seen leadership come from the team and it’s so much better when it comes from the team,” Blake said.
The Warriors chipped away and came through in the clutch, sweeping a Punahou squad that had swept Kamehameha three weeks earlier.
“That’s how we grow. We would rather it be hard. I’m sure Coach Tanya (Fuamatu-Anderson) and her team will continue to work hard and come back stronger,” Blake said.
The balance was no easy task for Punahou’s defense, which was outstanding at times. Robins finished with eight kills and two aces, often at serve when Kamehameha was at its most effective. Kahahawai had 25 attempts (.360), though it felt like more for the hard-hitting, 6-foot-2 junior. Isha Knight added five kills and Adrianna Arquette had two kills and a block.
“Moving it around and it gets the blockers for Punahou off. They don’t know if they set me or Mana or Maui. They can set any of us. It makes it harder for the blockers, too,” Kahahawai said.
Kahiau Ka‘alele had 26 assists and an ace for Kamehameha.
Karly Simeona-French led the visiting Buffanblu with eight kills. Belle Iosua tallied six kills, Emi Erickson had five kills, and Grace Fiaseu had three kills and a block. Matias finished with 18 assists and two kills.
Robins was relentless on the attack and on defense.
“We got to spend more time together. We are more connected now on the court. We came in ready today,” the junior said.
The Warriors took command of set one and led 11-4 after a kill by Knight, a left-handed outside hitter. After opening the lead to 16-8, Kamehameha never allowed the margin to drop lower than seven points.
Punahou was energized to start the second set and opened a 15-9 lead after a hitting error by Kahahawai. Kamehameha then inched its way back, getting a dig from Kahahawai that floated back over the net for a kill in the middle of Punahou’s defense.
A block by Ka‘alele tied it at 22, but Punahou got kills from Iosua and Nea Loa for a 24-22 edge.
Kamehameha then got a kill from Robins and a tip for a kill by Kahahawai to tie the game. After a block by Robins for the lead, the Warriors sealed the win on a double-contact error by Matias.
Knight came through when Punahou’s defense geared up for Kahahawai and Robins.
“She does all the little things we need,” Blake said.
“The little things for us mean working on staying composed on every play whether we were on our x’s or not,” Knight said. “We would do some breathing and mindset processes where we would breathe or see each other on the court. The little things like that matter for us because trusting your teammates is one of the biggest things on the court. So seeing each other is something we use to rely on each other, to know that we have each other’s back. Those are the little things we wanted to focus on this week.”
Growth feels good for the Warriors.
“It’s relieving and it feels great, honestly, because it was hard for me to sit on the sideline and watch our team struggle,” Knight said. “But we’ve been working on it since then and we can say we did our jobs today. There’s always room for growth, I think, and we’re not going to stop growing until probably our last game.”