Kahuku’s ascent to the OIA girls volleyball crown

2021 OIA girls volleyball champion Kahuku. Paul Honda/phonda@staradvertiser.com.

Time stood still for Tuli Tevaga.

The former Kahuku standout, Tuli Peters back in the day, saw her team play its best volleyball of the season at the most opportune moment on Thursday. Kahuku’s 22-25, 25-22, 25-22, 25-20 over previously unbeaten Moanalua is a fitting ascent for Tevaga and a team that has endured through the pandemic.

“I feel ecstatic. I’m so excited for the girls. They have worked really hard for this so I’m so proud of them,” Tevaga said. “Everything we’ve worked on, I’m not surprised they came out and won.”

Kahuku celebrated its four-set win over Moanalua on Thursday night to win the OIA championship. Photo by George F. Lee / Star-Advertiser.

It was a classic Kahuku performance, the first league championship under Tevaga and Kahuku’s first OIA title since 2016. Was it close to perfect?

“We like to hope so. We like to try and eliminate the errors, but I’m super proud of them and the way they played tonight,” she said.

Kahuku entered the playoffs ranked sixth in the Star-Advertiser Girls Volleyball Top 10. Moanalua is No. 4.

In 2018, Tevaga’s first season as head coach, Kahuku reached the state tourney, defeated Farrington and fourth-seeded Hilo, then lost to top seed Kamehameha in the semifinals. In ’19, Kahuku lost to Moanalua in the playoffs, reached states and lost in four sets to ILH runner-up Punahou in the opening round.

With the OIA title in hand, Kahuku is the No. 2 seed in this fall’s state tourney, which begins next week. Kahuku will play the Hilo-Waianae winner in the quarterfinal round on Thursday, 5 p.m. at McKinley Student Council Gym.

Kahuku opened the regular season with a loss at home against the same Moanalua squad, 25-16, 17-25, 25-23, 25-21, on Oct. 12. What else happened on that day?

>> No. 1 Punahou beat ‘Iolani in four sets. Two week later, Punahou dropped to No. 2 and stayed there for a total of three weeks before reemerging at No. 1.

>> Damien edged perennial ILH D-II powerhouse Le Jardin in five sets. Ranked sixth at the time, the Monarchs later rose to No. 5, then tumbled in the playoffs before eking out at state-tournament berth.

>> Baldwin swept MIL title contender Kamehameha-Maui 25-13, 25-18, 25-23 in its season debut. The young Bears went on to an unbeaten season, knocking off two-time defending champion King Kekaulike in the process.

The balance of Kahuku’s attack, the resilience of its constant block and the toughness of its back row (led by Hehea Polutu) — all add up to the kind of quality and talent that passed every eye test on Thursday. The win over Moanalua on Moanalua’s home court felt elite. ILH elite, especially against the constant attack by Na Menehune outside hitters Malu Garcia (24 kills), Kelia Giusta (14) and Leilani Giusta (10).

Emmalei Mapu’s mastery of the middle, using a rare vision and touch, led to 14 kills. Mele Taumoepeau had nine kills to provide setters ShaCe Niu and Madison-Marie Mamizuka the most basic and effective weapons in the OIA playoffs. Makayla Fonoimoana (12 kills) and freshman Chalei Reid (eight kills, two blocks) provided range and relentlessness on either side.

The 12-match win streak could have happened with or without that season-opening loss to the talented Na Wahine. Much of it was done in relative silence, long before doors reopened to spectators. The sight and sound of hundreds of Kahuku fans on title night was a reminder of what the program — the entire athletic program — is capable of bringing to any athletic contest: expectation.

The Lady Raiders accumulated 235 miles, round trip, over the course of four days in playoff matches at Kapolei’s gym, and then Moanalua’s glossy facility. Three long nights on the road, escaping with a five-set win over Waianae, ousting previously unbeaten Kapolei, and then toppling East top seed Moanalua. The late-night bus rides home. Back up early for school. The cycle is one they know well.

Even the daunting challenge of playing the late semifinal on Wednesday, a four-set battle that ended at 10:40 p.m. and easily could have extended to 11:15 or so with a fifth set, didn’t stop Kahuku.

“Our girls have fought through a lot. They have a strong mental game at this point and we have been working really hard throughout the season on our conditioning,” Tevaga said after the win over Kapolei. “I think we’re good on that.”

Tevaga, an all-state player of the year and former Fresno State all-conference standout, emphasized mental toughness all season long. She is one of the few from Kahuku who know what winning a girls volleyball state title means. Under Mona Ah-Hoy, Tevaga was a supreme, versatile playmaker as Kahuku won the 2002 state championship in Hilo.

The other all-state selections of ’02: Kanoe Kamanao of ‘Iolani, Patti Hardimon of Moanalua, Sarah Mason of St. Joseph, Mounia Nihipali of Kamehameha, Alicia Arnott of La Pietra, Aneli Cubi-Otineru of Punahou. Tevaga was the Advertiser player of the year; Kamanao was Star-Bulletin POY.

Paeaihevahamamao Lauhingoa (28) and Emmalei Mapu (7) are feeling good after the championship win. Paul Honda/phonda@staradvertiser.com.
Kahuku celebrates after a four-set win over Moanalua for the OIA Division I girls volleyball title. Paul Honda/phonda@staradvertiser.com.
Post-match happiness for Kahuku coaches, players and fans after winning the OIA girls volleyball championship at Moanalua. Paul Honda/phonda@staradvertiser.com.
An emotional night for Kahuku after toppling previous unbeaten Kapolei and Moanalua in back-to-back nights for the OIA girls volleyball crown. Paul Honda/phonda@staradvertiser.com.
Few travel like Kahuku when it comes to championship nights. Paul Honda/phonda@staradvertiser.com.
Post-match medal presentation ceremony for new OIA girls volleyball champion Kahuku. Paul Honda/phonda@staradvertiser.com.
Moanalua’s gym was flooded with Big Red for the OIA girls volleyball final between Kahuku and Moanalua. Paul Honda/phonda@staradvertiser.com.


  1. KHS '04 December 4, 2021 7:34 am

    Job well done Lady Raiders! Continue playing hard and striving for greatness each day! Good luck in the state tourney and to all the teams participating! Wishing a safe and fun filled environment for everyone! And a very nice article on past and present stars of the game! Thank you Hawai’i Prep world!

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