Tayli Ikenaga overcame an ankle injury and finished with 28 kills as Moanalua edged Kahuku 26-27, 25-19, 21-25, 25-23, 15-11 on Thursday night in a battle for the lead in the Oahu Interscholastic Association East.
Ikenaga sported her white headband during and after the thrilling match before a raucous crowd of about 1,000.
“Everybody played together, stuck together as a team. Everybody did their part and played with their hearts,” Ikenaga said.
It was a tremendous battle between teams tied at No. 5 in the Star-Advertiser Girls Volleyball Top 10.
Ikenaga hurt an ankle during the third set, when Kahuku took a 2-1 lead in the match. But the persistent outside hitter was a trooper, getting the ankle treated by a trainer, and then pounding 11 kills in the fourth set as Na Menehune tied the match. She came up with four kills in the final set, and Kaitlyn Patterson had an ace as Moanalua remained unbeaten at 5-0. Kahuku dropped to 4-1.
Red Raiders coach Tuli Tevaga was less than thrilled with at least a couple of calls in the final set.
“I hope that other closes matches are to come, if there are two highly competitive teams playing, that they allow us to play,” Tevaga said. “I did try to talk to the referee about who touched the ball, and she just ignored me. I think it’s unfair when the Moanalua team has a lot of rotation issues and the referees are waiting for them, when I ask a question and I don’t get an answer. Our players had an amazing game and I’m proud of them.”
Moanalua coach Alan Cabanting disagreed.
“I thought they got a couple of calls in the first game and we got a couple in the second,” he said. “I think the referees were consistent and did the best they could.”
Kahuku met Moanalua in preseason, with the Lady Raiders winning in two sets.
“I think going to the mainland and playing different competition was better for us. We’re practicing really hard and staying focused mentally and physically,” Ikenaga said. “Everybody was pumping each other up on the sideline, sticking together as a team.”
Tradie DeBina-Bautista tallied 12 kills, while middles Madison Williams (six kills, six blocks) and America Jones (three kills, three blocks) were very productive. Setter Aaliyah Allagonez had 29 assists and Alexis Iramina chipped in 19 dimes. Sonny Rodrigues had three aces.
Nela Liua led Kahuku with 23 kills. Savannah Taosoga added 14 and Makayla Fonoimoana-Vaomu tallied 12. Setter Keau Kamake‘eiaina had a match-high 63 assists to go with five kills.
It was a tough, tight battle from the start to the finish, befitting the equal points given to each team by Top 10 voters. Kahuku had a four-point lead in the opening set, lost the lead, then battled back from a 23-19 deficit. Fonoimoana-Vaomu’s back-to-back kills gave Kahuku a 25-24 lead. Kamake‘eaina’s kill from the right side ended the set.
Moanalua picked up its energy level and led most of the way in the second set. DeBina-Bautista, hitting with power from the back line, had five kills and an ace.
The third set was a bit sloppy as fatigue took a toll and Moanalua subbed in replacements after Ikenaga got hurt. Na Menehune had eight hitting errors and three service errors in the third.
Moanalua trailed 18-13, but pulled within 21-19 after a block by Amaris Garcia and an ace by Emily Bryce. Kahuku closed the third with a 4-2 run as Moanalua committed a hitting error on game point.
Ikenaga’s fourth set was tenacious, however, with the 11 kills. The lead changed hands four times with Moanalua taking the lead for good, 19-18, on a block by Garcia. Kahuku was within 24-23, but a hitting error on game point evened the match.
Moanalua jumped to a 6-2 lead in the final set and never trailed. Kahuku pulled within 9-8 and 10-9, but Ikenaga came through again with three kills to spark the final run.