It had been 31 days since the ‘Iolani girls volleyball team won a match when it took the floor last Friday in its final game of the ILH second round.
Winless since sweeping Punahou on Sept. 12, the Raiders needed a win over the Buffanblu and a Kamehameha win over Maryknoll the next day to ensure they’d get a shot in a playoff to earn the right to defend their state championship.
‘Iolani coach Kainoa Obrey called their 25-15, 25-16, 25-13 sweep of the Buffanblu one of their cleanest matches all season. He then watched his team outlast Punahou yet again this season, winning the fourth set 33-31 on their seventh match point Tuesday night to claim a 25-17, 17-25, 25-14, 33-31 victory and second place in the ILH.
“We wanted to try to capture that same sort of feeling (we had Friday),” Obrey said. “But we also had to recognize we were probably going to face some adversity, we were probably going to have to play with our back against the wall a little bit and fight for it, because Punahou is very tough and coach Tanya (Fuamatu-Anderson) does a great job with them.”
Sophomore Elena Oglivie, the reigning state player of the year, had a game-high 26 kills and Saige Ka’aha’aina-Torres, the only senior on the team, added 23 kills for ‘Iolani (6-7), which will play in a first-round game on Monday.
The Raiders, who won their first state title since 2001 last season, have qualified for states three years in a row for the first time in school history.
The only other time ‘Iolani had advanced in back-to-back years before last season was 2001 and ’02 with Kanoe Kamanao at setter.
“For me, experiencing states last year as a freshman was an unreal experience,” said Oglivie, who combined with Ka’aha’aina-Torres for 20 kills in the decisive fourth set. “To be able to take our freshmen to states is something I really wanted to do for them.”
After sweeping Punahou on Sept. 12, which included another 33-31 set win, the Raiders dropped 16 of their next 20 sets and lost five straight matches.
‘Iolani had five players miss time with injuries and had as many as three freshmen on the court in matches, but had everybody back healthy on Friday.
“I tried to tell them it was not that big of a deal because our league is solid,” Obrey said. “One through four all teams can probably win the state championship. We kind of got back to the point where we recovered fully and today we had all hands available.”
‘Iolani survived Punahou’s match point at 24-23 in the fourth set with a kill by Oglivie, who then teamed with middle Sasha Petticord on a block to give ‘Iolani its first match point at 25-24.
Punahou senior Amalia Hilliard landed her 15th kill of the match to tie it up at 25 and added two more kills on ‘Iolani match points to eventually tie the game at 30-all.
Buffanblu senior Savana Greene drilled her 16th kill of the match to give Punahou its second set point at 31-30.
Obrey called a timeout and ‘Iolani rolled off three straight points on a kill by Oglivie, an ace by Grace Wee and a Punahou hitting error.
“When we got into the 30’s, I was a little bit nervous, but then I felt like we had been here before and our team has got this,” Ka’aha-aina-Torres said. “We handled it very well.”
‘Iolani junior setter Kristen McDaniel finished with a match-high 47 assists and was singled out by Obrey for her performance after the game.
“She has been playing the last couple of matches really well,” Obrey said. “She is staying in the moment and finding the right kids at the right time, making good decisions, putting up hittable balls and she’s really progressed. She’s really worked hard and wants to get better.”