If 5-foot-5 outside hitters are too small to be high school volleyball superstars, then Tayli Ikenaga will have to grow some more.
But she played like one all over the court for No. 10 Moanalua on Thursday night in a five-set OIA quarterfinal victory over Waianae.
Ikenaga, a sophomore weighing 120 pounds, lit up the Mililani gym with 27 digs along with her 24 kills that were courtesy of setters Aaliyah Allagonez and Allexis Iramina.
“I’m not 5-foot-8 like it says on the roster,” Ikenaga said. “I’m like 5-5.”
Told about the three-inch difference on the roster, Na Menehune coach Alan Cabanting, smiled, put his hands in the air and said, “She plays like she’s taller, so I put that in there.”
Cabanting was asked to summarize his thoughts on the 23-25, 25-20, 25-19, 21-25, 15-12 victory and to give his overall impressions of Ikenaga as a volleyball player. Tellingly, the main adjective he used — complete — described both.
About the team: “This is the most complete match we’ve played the entire year.”
About Ikenaga: “She’s complete, one of the most complete I’ve seen. She’s a bundle of a powerhouse. She goes up and you think she’s not hitting that ball, but she just hits it and is not afraid to hit it. She is so complete, her all-around game. She plays beach volleyball and that helps her with ball control and her eye — just knowing where the ball is at.”
Asked what she thought she needed to work on, Ikenaga said, “By hitting the ball 10 times harder.”
Simply put, she is tough on herself. To a trained eye, the balls she smacks down are plenty hard.
“She worked out in the offseason and she hits it harder,” Cabanting said. “There’s more pace on it. Kudos to our setters for putting it in the right spot this game. That has been a struggle sometimes this year. There are times when I’m saying, ‘Set it to Tayli. Set it to Tayli.’ ”
Teammate Jeslyn Spencer unleashed 17 kills in the victory. She typically gets more sets, but she was tasked with defending potent Waianae hitter Heipua Tautuaa — and, according to the coach, she “shut her down as much as she could.”
There were some tense moments in the match against Waianae, especially in the fifth set.
“There were times I thought we might lose, but I still wanted every ball to come to me — not to be cocky, but I knew I could make a play off any ball,” Ikenaga said.
Those 27 digs were equal parts an ability to quickly get to the ball and being in the right place to make it look a magnet is bringing the ball her way.
“We were able to pull it off,” she said. “The coaches kept telling us to go all out.”
Up next for Moanalua (10-2) is a semifinal home match against the Mililani Trojans (11-0) on Monday. Both teams have already qualified for the Division I state tournament. Na Menehune are going for a fourth league title in the last five years and second in a row.
“I think we can pull it off if we transfer that energy from the way we played tonight to the next game,” Ikenaga said.