LJA Coach Lee Lamb: New ILH format is a success

Le Jardin's Teia Piette keeps the ball in play in the third set of the second semifinal match on Thursday. Bruce Asato / Star-Advertiser

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.

Division I

Match #DateMatchupTime/ScoresSite
1Oct. 21Moanalua vs. WaianaeMoan 25-20, 24-26, 25-19, 23-25, 15-13Moanalua
2Oct. 21Punahou vs. KahukuPun 25-19, 25-19, 19-25, 25-21Punahou
3Oct. 21Waiakea vs. KapoleiKapo 25-15, 25-18, 25-13Waiakea
4Oct. 21KS-Maui vs. Le JardinLJA 25-21, 20-25, 25-19, 25-14KS-Maui
5Oct. 24(4) King Kekaulike vs. MoanaluaMoan 25-17, 25-17, 25-19Moanalua
6Oct. 24(1) Kamehameha vs. KapoleiKSK 25-20, 25-14, 25-20Moanalua
7Oct. 24(3) KS-Hawaii vs. PunahouPun 25-12, 21-25, 25-20, 25-23McKinley
8Oct. 24(2) Mililani vs. Le JardinMil 22-25, 25-22, 25-20, 25-20McKinley
9*Oct. 25King Kekaulike vs. KapoleiKapo 25-23, 25-16McKinley
10*Oct. 25KS-Hawaii vs. Le JardinKSH 25-20, 25-22McKinley
11Oct. 25Moanalua vs. KamehamehaKSK 25-22, 25-19, 25-18Moanalua
12Oct. 25Punahou vs. MililaniPun 25-22, 25-12, 25-20Moanalua
13*Oct. 26Kapolei vs. KS-HawaiiKapo 25-16, 24-26, 15-8Blaisdell Arena
14*Oct. 26Moanalua vs. MililaniMoan 14-25, 28-26, 15-12Blaisdell Arena
15Oct. 26Kamehameha vs. PunahouKSK 21-25, 25-21, 25-16, 25-21Blaisdell Arena
* — consolation


  1. Sorry October 25, 2019 3:08 am

    The format may have been a great idea, because usually the ILH has 3 or more really good teams every year. The Quadrant picks were horrible. Now, Iolani, that could have been playing for the State Title is not even in the State Tournament. The Crowd at the Iolani vs Kamehameha game shows how much that game was worth more to the State. That was just a playoff game in the ILH tournament. Loser went home and LJA moves on. Sorry, but……are you serious? What a joke…

  2. Ridiculous October 25, 2019 10:58 am

    you think it is a success because your team got in even though it was the FOURTH best ILH team (with a huge margin between third and fourth). which is a joke. Le Jardin got hammered by the top three teams in the ILH and still got into states. That’s not a success…that’s ridiculous. at least when only two ILH teams got in, you got the top two ILH teams.

  3. Spectator October 25, 2019 1:02 pm

    This was not a success because Iolani should’ve been in the tournament. I believe the only reason the former ILH Div 2 teams moved up to D1 is because they were promised all 3 big schools would be in one quad so that one of those former D2 teams that moved up would get in the tournament, yet still lost. Yah they took off a set from the OIA champ but Kahuku and Kam Hi took off a set from Punahou which barely beat those teams. Just imagine if the OIA and BIIF rearrange their leagues to get the ILH down to one entry, we would finally have a non-all ILH final since 2002.

  4. Falcon Future October 25, 2019 1:05 pm

    For comments 1 & 2 (I think you are the same person anyway) … I see your point, but having the two quadrants is the compromise the ILH made to get the “small” schools to move up to D1 and get an extra spot in states for ILH. Kamehameha, Punahou, Iolani are basically in the same situation they were in past years with those three giants battling each other for two spots in states. Iolani shouldn’t be crying about it now only because they didn’t get in. They knew what was at stake all season long.

    The big question is if the ILH will be fair in re-making the quadrants next year. If you base it off this year, Le Jardin should move up to Quad 1 to battle with the Big 3.This will likely bump Le Jardin out of states, but fair is fair. Mid-Pac moves down to Quad 2. And then Damien moves up to Quad 2 from Division II, and Sacred Hearts goes down to Division II.

  5. justafan October 25, 2019 1:44 pm

    Definitely not a success – maybe only for LJA. It is a shame when one of the top 3 schools doesn’t make it to States and a #9 or #10 team does, just based on the quadrant they are in. The State tournament should include the top teams and know you achieved a championship by winning against the top teams. Regardless of whether it is Iolani, Punahou or Kamehameha that doesn’t make it into the State Tournament, it is a shame to not have all 3 of the top schools compete. If you play all season against the tougher teams that should be taken into account.

  6. Ridiculous October 25, 2019 2:49 pm

    Falcon Future – that is even more stupid…based on your rearrangement of quadrants, let’s take the 5th or 6th place ILH team (since you want to put the top 4 in the same quadrant) and send them to states instead.

    the OIA gets their top 5 or 6 teams in regardless or East or West. it should be the top 3 ILH schools regardless of quadrant or size of school.

  7. Falcon Future October 25, 2019 3:24 pm

    @Ridiculous, You are right, it does not make sense … but it is the compromise that the ILH was willing to make to get three teams in both the D1 and D2 state tournaments. In order to understand the compromise, you have to look at what led to it and ignore what OIA does. This is strictly about ILH.

    This came about because MPI and Maryknoll were thinking about dropping to D2 because they had no shot against the Big 3. If this scenario played out, it would have left Kamehameha, Punahou and Iolani as the only D1 ILH schools, and they would be battling for ONE spot in states.

    This scenario would also give 4 spots to ILH in D2 states, and a virtual guarantee that it would be ILH vs. ILH every year in D2 finals. Good for the ILH D2s and also gives MPI and Maryknoll a chance, right? Well, this is why the ILH had to come up with the Quadrant syestem to assure the D2s that at least one of them would get to D1 states if they agreed to move up.

  8. Wainakea October 25, 2019 3:28 pm


    The whole premise behind ILH moving D2 schools up was so that it would get a bigger representation in D1 state tournament. Without quadrants, successful schools in D2 like Le Jardin and HBA would simply get thrown under the bus just so that the big 3 would all be effectively guaranteed in. If the playing field ever levels out, such to the point where the former D2 schools start beating the big 3 consistently, the quadrants would be abolished. This is my guess on ILH’s future vision. But if you didn’t put these safeguards in, the league could be jeopardizing the smaller programs just for the sake of having a 3rd slot. Otherwise ILH should stick with the old format and be content with 2 representatives.

  9. BangkokJoe October 25, 2019 4:53 pm

    To make State’s fair and legitimate, there should always be a “wild card” slot included. It should be reserved for the highest ranked team not eligible through the current system, and only in the open division.

  10. Randy Burnett October 26, 2019 12:20 pm

    Stupid idea. Some teams just Don’t belong D2! Or maybe is the coaching.
    Look. At Scared hearts. They lost all their games. Back in the day if you win D2 you move up to D1 the next year. And if you become last place in D1. You go back to D2.
    So let’s see who going be the sacrificial “Lamb”to move up next year.
    Poor Iolani. They can beat any team in this state tournament. And they outside looking in. And le jardin In. Please

  11. Gma November 1, 2019 7:54 pm

    LJA did their best, Good luck to all our schools next year. DI and DII, going up or down, continue to support our kids no matter what format they create. A positive parent, can create a positive experience. There is more to life, learning to be a team player is one.

  12. Opinion November 21, 2019 1:03 pm

    Are people forgetting that Kamehameha and Punahou beat Iolani with Elena playing? Elena is an awesome player but her team lost and they were out of states. Just like it would be if Punahou or Kamehameha’a lost. Everyone k ew what it was and win or lost. Were the quads split up fairly? Nope don’t think so.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Star-Advertiser's TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, email hawaiiprepworld@staradvertiser.com.