Kahuku was looking for a girls volleyball coach after last season, and they didn’t go very far to find one.
They got Michelle Tuli Tevaga, known to many by what she went by during her 2002 state player of the year season for the Red Raiders before going on to star at Fresno State — Tuli Peters.
Peters’ Kahuku girls hit some bumps, but got past Roosevelt 25-20, 25-18 in an OIA match Wednesday night at the Rough Riders’ gym.
The eighth-ranked Red Raiders bounced back from Monday’s three-set loss to Moanalua to improve to 5-1 in a tight OIA East race.
“It’s great to get back and do one of the things that I’ve always wanted to do and I’m glad I finally get the opportunity to do it,” Peters said about coaching.
The Rough Riders (5-2) gave the Red Raiders a load of trouble after Kahuku started fast and held a big 22-12 first-set lead.
Two aces by Roosevelt’s Amber Thi Nguyen-Cheng and two kills by teammate Vanessa Colling got it as close as 23-18 and 24-20 before Red Raiders setter Taylor Magalei closed out the first set with a kill.
The second set was tighter, with eight ties and five lead changes. Kahuku pulled away at 16-12, only to watch Roosevelt tie it back up at 16-all.
From there, the Red Raiders took control with an ace from Makayla Fonoimoana-Vaomu, two kills by Savannah Taosoga and one each by Mary Fonoimoana and Maresa Maiava to get it to 24-18. Penina Matau‘s block ended the match.
“I think it was a matter of just getting comfortable,” Tevaga said. “We want them to realize that no matter how big the score, you have to play a tight game every time because some teams will just mop up the floor with defense. You can’t take anything lightly.
“They’re amazing,” she remarked about the Rough Riders. “I have always known since I was in high school that they always mop the floor with defense. Nothing every touches the floor. It doesn’t matter the lead, they always find a way to come back.”
Kahuku’s Keau Kamakeeaina, one of the setters along with Magalei in a 6-2 offense, finished with three kills, two blocks, 11 assists and an ace. In the middle, Fonoimoana put down eight kills and Matau had four kills and a block.
“Keau has come up big for us,” Tevaga said. “She is one of our captains and even though it would be ideal to run a 5-1, because of her athleticism and ability to also be a hitter she is in the 6-2 and getting comfortable in it. We know she’s a team player.”
Kamakeeaina said she is loving her dual role. She said the team was caught a bit off guard by Roosevelt’s perseverance.
“It was a little frustrating,” she said. “Our serve-receive passes needed work. Coach called timeout and told us we need to come in and focus on our passing and getting our feet there.
“We have to work on our defense, stay tight and play with good ball control.”
The Rough Riders’ Colling had a game-high 12 kills. Leina Elwin (eight assists) and Tiana Thompson (seven assists) shared the setting duties.
“It was noticeable that we started pretty slow and we just kept on trying to pick each other up,” Colling said. “That’s something we’ve struggled with since the beginning of the season. We try to work on it at practice — get it going from the beginning. Once we got momentum, we carried it into the second set. Even though we didn’t execute (fully), we did pretty good at it. I was proud of our blocking and our digging. We fought!
“Our team is super close on and off the court and that helps us on the court to play for each other and support each other. We carry each other on our backs and pick each other up.”
Rough Riders coach Puna Velasco was all smiles despite the loss.
“I’m very proud,” he said. “I really wanted to see them compete. Kahuku is a very talented team, so to match up with them point for point for as long as we did was really nice.
“We do have to fix our passing. That was our biggest weakness tonight and it got exposed. If we can shore that up, we’ll be a lot better down the stretch. It gook us a while, but it was a nice fight once it happened. I’m hoping they can gain confidence from it. Kahuku is a great team.”