Blake, Kamehameha relied on end game

The Kamehameha girls hoisted the Division I state championship trophy Saturday night. Bruce Asato / Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
The Kamehameha girls hoisted the Division I state championship trophy Saturday night. Bruce Asato / Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

Head coach Chris Blake hit a milestone on Halloween, when his Kamehameha girls volleyball team held off ‘Iolani for the Division I state championship.

Blake (2005-10, ’13, ’15) passed Dan Kitashima, one of his mentors, with his eighth state title. Kitashima compiled seven state victories (1991-92, 1994-95, 1997-99) in his time as the Warriors’ coach. Kuuipo Lum (1969-70, 1977, 1982-83) was the coach for the five others of the 20 state crowns in school history.

“I was fortunate to be on Dan Kitashima’s staff in the mid to late ’90s, when the pieces were built,” Blake said. “The same goes for Ann Kang. I was lukcy to be on the bench (as an assistant) when she won the state title with ‘Iolani in 2001. I learned so much from those two coaches.”

After beating ‘Iolani in five stressful sets, Blake also gave a salute to his assistants, Kamehameha players from the recent past who have come back to help guide the program: Rebekah Torres, Koala Matsuoka, Lesli Akeo and Alex Akana. They have first-hand knowledge of how the ship is run and they pass that knowledge on to the young Warriors.

If there was one thing that marked this version of Kamehameha girls volleyball — aside from the obvious top-notch talent — it was resiliency in the face of adversity.

The Warriors needed to beat both ILH first-round champion ‘Iolani and defending state champion Punahou just to qualify for states — a tall task. And despite losing their next match — for the overall league title to the Raiders — they never lost sight of the possibilities at the end of the tunnel.

Even in the face of losing to Iolani four of the five times they played prior to states, Kamehameha somehow found a way to get it done.

Blake talked about execution in critical situations and the “end game.” Both came into play in the 15-12 fifth-set victory in the finale.

Throughout the season, Blake implored the girls to finish strong, whether it was practice, a match, the regular-season schedule, a fifth set, etc.

The Warriors were down 12-10 in that fifth set against ‘Iolani, so if an “end game” was ever needed, this was it.

Kayla Afoa slammed a kill to get it to 12-11, and then a role player got involved big-time. Lauren Condon, a senior who had four kills previously in the fifth set, slammed home two more to give Kamehameha a 13-12 lead.

The next point was pure luck, when ‘Iolani setter Bailey Choy was called for a net violation. And then Condon finished her high school career off in style — and clinched the championship — with another kill.

The loss was excruciatingly tough for the Raiders, who got so close and watched it slip away. Many ‘Iolani players were still crying hard about 10 minutes after the final point.

Afoa led the Kamehameha attack with 11 kills, and she was followed by Shiloh Peleras with 10, Condon with nine, and Brooke Ka‘awa with eight. Lexis Akeo, a freshman, had 42 assists.

Libero Kyra Hanawahine powered the dig machine with 25, and two others were in the 20s, Afoa (24) and Akeo (22).

The stats, however, don’t tell about the glue that held the team together and the effort all the players made to reach the pinnacle this season, not to mention that relentless end game that put them over the top.


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