The byproduct is an incredibly long streak.
The process is what gets Chris Blake excited. Down two sets, he sat back on the end of the Kamehameha bench and watched his team convene. Recharge. Unite. The empowerment was real for Kamehameha, which rallied past ‘Iolani 19-25, 15-25, 25-22, 25-14, 17-15.
A younger coach, perhaps, would have felt compelled to say much more. Blake, the veteran championship guru, said less.
It was the end of the second set when he took a moment to let his team lead itself. All the talent on this year’s team is spread among seniors like Keonilei Akana and Bryanne Soares to sophomores like Devin Kahahawai (24 kills) and Maui Robins (14 kills). The playoff battle was elimination mode, with the winner advancing to the next round of the ILH’s version of Division I playoffs. The loser? Done for the year. Especially tough because Kamehameha came into the match ranked No. 2 in the Star-Advertiser Girls Volleyball Top 10. ‘Iolani is No. 3.
So Blake let the Warriors sort things out before game three.
“We told each other, we have we have nothing to lose. We can accomplish anything we want as along as we stay together as a team,” said Akana, who finished with 19 kills. “I’m so proud of our team. We stayed calm.”
“It came down to our leadership. We talked a little about we need to get to that part, end game, end game is our game,” Blake said. “After set two, the leadership of that group definitely came together. The captains came together. That’s part of where these guys coming full circle, to understand all the things we do tactically comes down to what they want with their heart.”
The legacy of Kamehameha’s volleyball dynasty is stout. Large. Immense. But the streak of appearances at the state tournament has been ongoing since 2002. In fact, Kamehameha had played in every final since then. It is not something Blake ignores. The team knows the program’s history through and through.
“It’s about playing for those before you, those you play with now and those who are coming up,” Akana said. “I’m just so relieved. ‘Iolani is a great team and Elena (Oglivie) is such a great player.”
In defeat, Oglivie delivered a whopping 41 kills in 99 swings. It took all of Kamehameha, its depth and relentless defense — libero Tara De Sa was a dig machine swinging her arms to keep Oglivie’s rocket shots in play — were just enough to keep the rally going. Kamehameha has dual-threat players like Akana, who can offer double-digit digs and kills, like almost no other team. The glue was Bryanne Soares, who had three crucial blocks in the pivotal third set. She added 10 kills and a match-high 63 assists.
“Bry did an excellent job of running our offense. I can’t stress how much of a team win that was for us. Tara did exceptionally. Maui and K did good in the back. Mia (Goulart) came in the back row to do some work. It came down to making the right execution at the right part of the game. We’re lucky to come out with a win,” Blake said.
Kamehameha will play Le Jardin, the winner of “quadrant 2” on Wednesday. The victor will face regular-season winner Punahou on Friday for the ILH championship.