Kili Robins pounded 14 kills and Keonilei Akana added 13 as No. 1 Kamehameha edged No. 6 Maryknoll 25-16, 21-25, 25-21 on Tuesday night at ‘Iolani.
The Warriors (5-1) clinched the first-round title of the Interscholastic League of Honolulu and secured an automatic state-tournament berth. It was almost not meant to be, however. If Maryknoll (1-4) had pulled off an upset win, Kamehameha would have slid into a first-place tie with ‘Iolani, which later beat Punahou in the second match of the doubleheader.
Instead, Kamehameha’s poise and experience were prominent in the pivotal third set. The Warriors came up with four blocks, including three by Braelyn Akana, and adjusted defensively. Maryknoll’s Natalie Nava Minjarez was on fire during the second set with nine kills in nine swings, almost all on step-out sets from Jhenna Gabriel. Kamehameha made its adjustments and finished with four of its five blocks in the third game.
With a 5-4 lead, Akana and Kalina Obrey delivered kills in the middle, and after a block by Obrey, the Warriors led 8-4. Robins’ kill and an ace by setter Lexis Akeo opened the lead to 10-5. Then came kills by Obrey and Keonilei Akana, and after a rotation violation by Maryknoll, the lead was 13-6.
The Spartans pulled within 14-13, but never tied it up. Kamehameha went on a 7-3 run, getting an ace from Chloe Akiona-Bannan and two more kills from Robins.
Maryknoll got within 22-20 after a dump kill by Gabriel, but got no closer.
“Maryknoll is well-coached and has so many seniors, so they’re steady,” Kamehameha coach Chris Blake said. “We saw a lot of things on tape and we prepared for it, but in a short (three-set) match, it takes time to be the adjustments. Our staff made some great adjustments.”
Akana finished with seven kills along with three blocks. Reserve Maile McClure came up big again with eight kills. Akeo finished with 42 assists and two aces. As a team, the Warriors hit .304, tallied three aces without a service error, and outblocked Maryknoll 5-2.
Nava Minjarez led the Spartans (1-4) with 15 kills and a block. Kodee Viena added eight kills and one ace, and middle Isabella Cravens had six kills and a block. Gabriel finished with 36 assists, and Moana To‘oto‘o added three kills and two aces. As a team, the Spartans hit .324 and finished with three aces and four service errors.
Next up is a flight on Wednesday night to Las Vegas, where the Durango Invitational awaits. The two-day tourney begins on Friday. ‘Iolani and Kahuku will also play in the annual event.