Lexis Akeo has a way of blending into the celebration.
Not long after Kamehameha finished its dream season with a 25-20, 25-22, 31-29 sweep of ‘Iolani, she was perfectly at home in the crowd. Parents and grandparents, uncles and aunties, brothers and sisters and cousins placing lei on their favorite Warriors.
Akeo was more than a sister and daughter. She was the glue of what may have been the most balanced team during the dynasty. The modest junior setter was also named most outstanding player of the New City Nissan/HHSAA Division I State Championships. The 21st state champion from Kapalama Heights is also the ninth under the watchful eyes of Chris Blake and staff.
“That sounds amazing. We worked really hard to get here. Our team, we played together and we played for each other. It really showed and that’s how we got the win. It’s an indescribable feeling. It feels so good knowing that all your hard work was put to the test and succeeded,” Akeo said.
Blake’s team wasn’t perfect, going 13-2 and withstanding one of the most rugged ILH seasons — four league members are in the Star-Advertiser Top 5 — but the championship run was unstoppable. Even as ‘Iolani provided resistance that belied the final score.
“We know what they can bring. They’re so dynamic and play with so much heart,” Blake said. “They weren’t going to give us anything. It came down to little bits of execution.”
Akeo finished with 35 assists and 11 digs, adding three kills. Kamehameha’s stat sheet provided all the evidence: not a single Warrior with double-digit kills, but five had at least five spikes for points.
>> Braelyn Akana: nine kills, one assist, two digs
>> Kili Robins: eight kills, 13 digs
>> Maluhia Ma‘a: eight kills, three digs
>> Keonilei Akana: six kills, one assist, 11 digs
>> Kalina Obrey: five kills, one dig
>> Maile McClure: two kills, two digs
>> Kealani Ontai: 26 digs
>> Chloe Akiona-Banan: 12 digs, one assist
Braelyn Akana and Robins joined Akeo on the all-tournament team.
It was a deep, precise and patient attack with Akeo dishing everywhere, resilient and living the faith. The junior finished with 35 kills and 11 digs, adding three kills of her own.
Blake provided a little change of pace in pre-game preparation, offering some game video of previous classic championship matches between Kamehameha and ‘Iolani.
“That, for me, was really inspirational, knowing that we had to keep the legacy going, making it to states and winning. It really motivated me,” she said.
Some of that footage included current assistant coach Bekah Torres.
“We thought it was really funny. We were really cheering for her when we saw all the videos,” Akeo said. “She’s the same now.”
Whatever Blake and his staff offered, the team was involved to the fullest.
“We’re so proud of the discipline we showed to stave off those points,” Blake said of his team’s resilience in the third set, when ‘Iolani battled to force seven match points before succumbing on a Braelyn Akana block.
“Walking into the gym with confidence. All the 68 days of work showed. We’ve focused on overcommunication, balls dropping because of tentative play and we wash it out, move on to the next play. The end part is what I’m most proud of. They executed to the ’T’.”
Akeo, in some ways, is a disciple of the way in Kamehameha volleyball.
“We all bought into what he does and teaches,” Akeo said. “At the end, we bought in, we played together and grinded. He always says to play for the people that came before you and the people that are coming after you, and the people you play with now, and that’s what we did today.”
Blake, a physics teacher, leaves no stone unturned. His players just play.
“I don’t think we did anything that different. We each played our game,” Akeo said. “Tonight, we definitely brought our ‘A’ game and we worked really hard to win.”
There was rarely a moment of hesitation or doubt. Every Warrior, starters and reserves, stepped on the court with purpose.
“There was so much pressure coming into this,” Robins said. “We just had to have faith.”
Blake has coached more talented teams, for sure, but as far as unity and chemistry go, this year’s Warriors are right there with the best.
“I’m so proud of our players, especially our seniors,” he said. “This is a great team from top to bottom. This game was won every day at practice. I feel proud of how they decided it was time to come together and play for each other.”