The theory became a live experiment.
The ILH’s crafty new format landed a third team into the Division I bracket of the New City Nissan/HHSAA Girls Volleyball State Championships. Not only did Le Jardin, the third representative of the ILH, reach the quarterfinal round, the Lady Bulldogs took game one from OIA champion Mililani.
By the end, the young Bulldogs, all but one being an underclassman, succumbed to Mililani and the fire-balling kills of Falanika Danielson. The senior finished with 24 kills, and her classmate, Aysia Miller, dished out 38 assists in elite fashion. Again.
In Mililani’s 22-25, 25-22, 25-20, 25-20 win, the Lady Trojans got savvy play from their seniors. LJA got 17 kills from Ellie Diersbock, 12 kills from Gennezia Hawkins, 10 kills from Alishya Roman, and 42 assists plus 14 digs from setter Nive Tuileta.
While Mililani moves on to the semifinal round to meet ILH runner-up Punahou, Le Jardin is a prime example of what the middle tier, or “quadrant 2” of the state’s only private-school only league is capable of. After proving its strength as a D-II powerhouse, Le Jardin was ready for a move to D-I. Coach Lee Lamb had more experienced rosters LJA’s two-year championship run atop D-II in 2016 and ’17. The current squad is ranked No. 9 in the Star-Advertiser Top 10. (Mililani is No. 4 entering the state tourney.)
The Bulldogs traveled to the Valley Island on Monday and ousted MIL runner-up Kamehameha-Maui in four sets in the opening round. A win by LJA over Mililani would possibly have set off fireworks among ILH volleyball fans who would argue for a fourth state berth — No. 2-ranked ‘Iolani was the odd team out after losing in the “quadrant 1” playoffs.
That discussion, which includes the idea of interleague, regular-season play that would mimic the football format to some extent, is not in play in formal sit-downs. For now, Lamb and his program are eager finish consolation play and get to work on next year’s goals. Will the ILH continue with the quadrant format?
“They’re trying to figure out a way to create a more balanced schedule because they only had the four (D-I) teams in there for multiple years, so they’re really trying to figure out a way to get more teams up into the Division I,” Lamb said, referring to powerhouses Kamehameha, Punahou and ‘Iolani.
The quadrants created for this season had those three plus Mid-Pacific in quadrant 1, and LJA, Maryknoll, Hawaii Baptist and Sacred Hearts in quadrant 2.
“Yes, it gives the third (D-I) berth, but just for the regular-season schedule, that’s a good incentive for the smaller schools to come up and play in the league, to have a berth available to them,” Lamb said. “I have my own feelings about whether that’s fair or not, but if that’s what it takes to create a more balanced schedule, then that’s good.”
Lamb considers the experiment a success. He hopes it continues.
“I think so. Even though we fell short tonight, I think it’s probably going to motivate other programs to realize that it can be done. From a small-school perspective, that’s huge for us to even make it here and make it past the play-in (against KS-Maui). I’m sure HBA and Maryknoll and the other schools are going to get after it next year,” Lamb said.
Daniela Miranda-Johnson will graduate, the lone Lady Bulldog who won’t be back.
“Next year, we’ll be senior heavy. We have five juniors this year, a sophomore and three freshmen,” he said.
Tuileta, their standout setter, is a junior. LJA’s JV team played in the ILH’s I-AA division.
|1||Oct. 21||Moanalua vs. Waianae||Moan 25-20, 24-26, 25-19, 23-25, 15-13||Moanalua|
|2||Oct. 21||Punahou vs. Kahuku||Pun 25-19, 25-19, 19-25, 25-21||Punahou|
|3||Oct. 21||Waiakea vs. Kapolei||Kapo 25-15, 25-18, 25-13||Waiakea|
|4||Oct. 21||KS-Maui vs. Le Jardin||LJA 25-21, 20-25, 25-19, 25-14||KS-Maui|
|5||Oct. 24||(4) King Kekaulike vs. Moanalua||Moan 25-17, 25-17, 25-19||Moanalua|
|6||Oct. 24||(1) Kamehameha vs. Kapolei||KSK 25-20, 25-14, 25-20||Moanalua|
|7||Oct. 24||(3) KS-Hawaii vs. Punahou||Pun 25-12, 21-25, 25-20, 25-23||McKinley|
|8||Oct. 24||(2) Mililani vs. Le Jardin||Mil 22-25, 25-22, 25-20, 25-20||McKinley|
|9*||Oct. 25||King Kekaulike vs. Kapolei||Kapo 25-23, 25-16||McKinley|
|10*||Oct. 25||KS-Hawaii vs. Le Jardin||KSH 25-20, 25-22||McKinley|
|11||Oct. 25||Moanalua vs. Kamehameha||KSK 25-22, 25-19, 25-18||Moanalua|
|12||Oct. 25||Punahou vs. Mililani||Pun 25-22, 25-12, 25-20||Moanalua|
|13*||Oct. 26||Kapolei vs. KS-Hawaii||Kapo 25-16, 24-26, 15-8||Blaisdell Arena|
|14*||Oct. 26||Moanalua vs. Mililani||Moan 14-25, 28-26, 15-12||Blaisdell Arena|
|15||Oct. 26||Kamehameha vs. Punahou||KSK 21-25, 25-21, 25-16, 25-21||Blaisdell Arena|
|* — consolation|