King Kekaulike coach Al Paschoal said there’s “a lot of chatter” regarding Chandler Cowell’s future.
In the present, the Na Alii junior will likely be a focal point in the Kamehameha’s coaching staff’s discussions heading into Friday’s semifinal matchup in the New City Nissan/HHSAA Division I Girls Volleyball Championship.
Cowell powered third-seeded King Kekaulike into the semifinals with 24 kills while hitting .388 in a four-set quarterfinal win over Kalaheo on Thursday at Moanalua. Kamehameha, the defending state champion, joined Na Alii in Friday’s 5 p.m. semifinal at McKinley with a sweep of Kapolei.
“It means a lot to us,” Cowell said of reaching the semifinals. “We just want to play ball. We want to play our game and play like we know how to play and we’re just gonna show what Maui has and try our best the entire time.”
Kamehameha swept King Kekaulike in the state tournament quarterfinals last year and Na Alii began this season on the Kapalama campus for a preseason tournament that helped prepare them for an undefeated run through the Maui Interscholastic League.
“We actually got to play Kahuku, got to play Mililani, got to play Moanalua,” Paschoal said. “Upping the ante early in the year kind of sets the tone as far as training and expectations so that helps a lot.”
So does having Cowell’s production from her outside hitter spot.
After Kalaheo won the first set in Thursday’s match, Cowell kills accounted for four of King Kekaulike’s first six points in the second set. The 5-foot-10 junior finished the set with seven kills and added seven more in the third. Kalaheo managed to slow her slightly in a back-and-forth fourth set, but she still put six kills away in the set to help Na Alii fend off the Mustangs 20-25, 25-12, 25-13, 25-23.
“She turned it on,” Kalaheo coach Roberta Downey said. “Watching her on video, she’s amazing. She has that high reach. It’s so deceiving it kind of throws off the blockers, and it did for us until we finally played disciplined and started to touch more of her balls. Up until that point, we were chasing her.”
Na Alii middle Kanilea Nomura added 12 kills on 16 swings and Cowell credited Kalena Vaivai (24 assists) for setting up her big night.
Cowell’s parents, Cody and Christina, were professional beach volleyball players and Chandler has been playing volleyball “as long as I’ve known.”
She began playing indoors in the sixth grade and she lists her older brother, Colton, as “my biggest inspiration.”
Colton was a two-time MIL player of the year, a Star-Advertiser Fab 15 pick in 2015 and was named to the HHSAA all-tournament team that season. He’s now a sophomore with the University of Hawaii men’s volleyball team.
“He’s really supportive of me. He always texts me before and after my games,” Chandler said.
Where Chandler will continue her career after high school is a matter for another time. Keeping her focus in the present doesn’t appear to be an issue.
“She’s a fiery competitor, she loves a challenge,” Paschoal said. “She’s got her head on right, 4.0 student, National Honor Society, you name it. She’s going to go places.”