Kamehameha’s ILH girls volleyball crown is ‘FTP’

The Kamehameha Warriors peaked in the postseason again, capturing the 2021 ILH girls volleyball title on Tuesday. Paul Honda/Star-Advertiser.

For the Princess, the Kamehameha Warriors were prepared to their best.

They did exactly that in a 25-22, 25-20 sweep of Punahou, on the Buffanblu’s home court, to capture the Interscholastic League of Honolulu girls volleyball championship on Tuesday night.

Every Warrior had “FTP” written on her wrist, a motto to honor the founder of Kamehameha Schools, Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop. Each time a Warriors went up to swing or block, “FTP” in black ink was above the net by the twos or fours.

“Their understanding of why they’re doing this — they’re doing it for our team, they’re doing it for our program, and they’re also doing it for Kamehameha,” Warriors coach Chris Blake said. “I think that’s the kind of thing that we relish as an opportunity and to carry that kuleana with us. I’m very proud of the girls and proud of the staff, and I couldn’t be happier about the result today.”

The Warriors were devastating defensively. Libero Sydney Sniffen led a back row that took Punahou’s best shots and converted them into momentum.

“Oh man, our first touch was exceptional today. They were going after Isha (Knight) and she handled her business. Our libero, Syd, she made a bunch of great adjustments, putting balls into the spot. They’ve come a long way as far as the communication,” Blake said.

“I feel really great. It’s amazing to see our work pay off and to be able to play for our seniors,” said Maui Robins, who had seven kills and two blocks.

Devin Kahahawai, a 6-foot-2 junior, led the Warriors with 11 kills.

“This kind of reminds me of last season, which was one that was also one to remember,” she said of the 2019 fall schedule.

“Last season” was roughly 18 months ago. Back then, the playoffs were best-of-five, and the regular-season winner had an automatic berth in the league final. Now? A regular season only half as long, all matches best-of-three, and no mercy for losing teams in the playoffs. Kamehameha came out firing and never eased up.

“This year, we’re emphasizing fast starts. Last year, it was always long distance, but now it’s sprints,” Robins said.

She meant it.

“The green line to the green line,” Kahahawai said of the court’s sidelines. “Sixty times.”

For senior setter Kahiau Ka‘alele (25 assists, two kills one block), the shorter matches were like a quick deadline.

“We talked about that all the time as a team. We focus on our quick starts during our sets, and that just helped us a lot throughout the season,” Ka‘alele said.

Blake has led Kamehameha to 10 state titles in a 16-year span. There won’t be a state title this season, but the Warriors are clearly the best team in the state.

“I couldn’t be prouder of our team. We had a great practice yesterday and although we didn’t get everybody in, it was a great testament to show how checked in and how everybody was all about success for the team and our seniors,” he said.

The elevation in performance by players like Peaua is in sync with the Warriors’ annual goal — to play their best match in their last match.

“When everybody gets their opportunity, whether it’s one play or all the plays, having the trust in each other to make that happen is key,” Blake said. “In the 46 days that we’ve been together as a team, we’ve come a long way.”

The gym was nearly empty but for official scorers, trainers and assorted print, electronic and TV media. The normal post-match rush of adoring parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles bestowing lei on the champions and runners-up — non-existent due to the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But the Warriors played with a verve and cohesion worthy of their state champions of the past. Without a state tournament, they saved their best for the ILH final, upending the top seed. Kahahawai struggled early on, but grew warmer and then scalding hot by set two, pounding eight kills.

Many of them came from the side, which turned into a portal to success for Kamehameha’s hitters, including Maui Robins. The junior finished with seven kills and two blocks. Middles Moana Peaua (four kills, two blocks) and Adrianna Arquette (three kills, one block) combined to counter Punahou’s normally potent middle attack.

Kahahawai, though, was virtually unstoppable by the second game. On one play, Ka‘alele delivered a back set to Kahahawai at the right-side back row. From there, Kahahawai glided through the air like a condor, ripping the ball for a point through a tight window. Most of her second-set points came from the right side.

“She’s a great player. She causes a lot of matchup problems. Punahou did a really good job with their matchups. We’re lucky to have a player of that caliber. The thing about Devin that’s really impressive is that she’s doing it for her team,” Blake said. “She has a long way to go, but the success that she has, she understands that it takes a team to make that happen.”

There was additional fuel for Kahahawai and Robins earlier in the day.

“Me and Maui watched our ILH championship game from last year to give us some inspiration. For all of us, being able to experience that last year kind of helped us gain confidence,” Kahahawai said. “We watched it on Punavision this morning.”

Punahou’s young, tall wall of defense became vulnerable for the first time since splitting with Kamehameha during the regular season. Their deficit in set two went from 13-11 to 19-14 as Kahahawai crushed three kills from the right side. After Ka‘alele stayed with Robins and Kahahawai for two more right-side points, the Warriors led 23-17 en route to another title.

“The team relishes the opportunity to be together, which is the beauty that we have with this group,” Blake said. “It was able to be shown that they played calm and they played composed, and they got after it. Through all that adversity, they’re fighting hard in every play, but I love how they turned the page and were able to move on to the next one when things didn’t go their way. That’s a testament to the process that the coaching staff has put in, and how the players executed on it.”

Punahou, stocked with talented juniors, can look forward to next season — this fall — and evolve. In a typical ILH season, the two best teams meet four, five, even six times from the beginning through the state tourney.

“Shout out to Punahou,” Kahahawai said. “You guys are really good.”

Punahou’s height, power and athleticism, and youth and relative inexperience compared to Kamehameha, mean the 2021 fall season could be epic — especially with the talent and success of ‘Iolani, which pushed Kamehameha to three sets in the semifinals. Can anyone peak the way Kamehameha does?

Punahou’s top hitter, Lucky-Rose Williams, finished with eight hard-earned kills. The Warriors often mirrored her, creating disruptions in what normally would be clean paths to points for the 6-foot-1 junior.

“Yeah, we tried to. They’ve got a lot of good size. I think we did pretty good on the service line,” Blake said. “Coach Daryl (Tamashiro) did a great job with our serving tactics and our girls did a great job with execution. It allowed us to pick up some defensive balls, but we couldn’t stop them all the time. When we were able to find advantages, the girls did a great job of taking care of business.”


  1. Q May 5, 2021 5:13 pm

    Congrats Girls
    Wish you could take off the masker the picture.
    At least there is no flu, Covid cured it!

  2. ??? May 8, 2021 4:53 pm

    What a joke, to play & take a pictures in a mask!
    IGE is in charge so I’m NOT surprised at ALL.
    He will probably quarantine our 2021 National Champion Rainbow Warrior Men’s team but continue to let all tourists run wild. AUWE!!!

  3. Bat May 10, 2021 2:45 pm

    Well done Kamehameha Girls Volleyball Team! BTW, you folks look fabulous in your mask. I guess people always have to complain about something. Not happy with the fact that we as a Nation are taking steps, no matter how small, back towards normalcy. If IGE said Hawaii go back to normal and people started getting sick, they would blame him for that to. It is what it is…again Well done ladies and congratulations!!!

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