Alexis DeBina-Bautista and Emily Bryce stepped up in a big way for No. 5 Moanalua in a key 25-15, 27-26, 25-18 OIA East girls volleyball sweep of Kalaheo on Tuesday night.
On their home court and without leader Tayli Ikenaga — who tweaked her foot in the second set and left the match after seven kills — Na Menehune wobbled and almost lost that second set. Instead, they fought back to grab it on the deciding 27th point.
Then in the third, the ship steadied out and in-system Moanalua (7-0) ended Kalaheo’s bid to knock off Na Menehune.
DeBina-Bautista’s contribution was two-fold — as the go-to hitter (16 kills) and as an all-around defender. Bryce chipped in to do many of the things on the court that Ikenaga does well — passing and, especially, digging. Bryce, along with Sonny Rodrigues, Allexis Iramina and DeBina-Bautista finished with double-digit digs, showing just how good Moanalua is at defending the ball.
Two setters, Iramina and Aaliyah Allagonez, kept Moanalua’s offensive engine going.
“She (Emily) is a great server and digger,” Na Menehune coach Alan Cabanting said. “She was able to take care of what Tayli — who is the glue of our team — is used to doing in the digging portion. She’s a young hitter who has not quite been in that role and now all of a sudden she’s having to take that spot. She eventually settled in and it allowed Alexis (DeBina-Bautista) to go off because we were able to dig balls in transition and set Alexis out there.”
Cabanting noticed his Moanalua girls pressing in that second set and it worked against them.
“(Without Tayli), the team was trying to do too much,” he said. “They were trying to serve Kalaheo off the court, trying to get free points when usually we’re trying to take care of our own serve.”
Cabanting also noticed that in that second set his team was trying to transition too fast to offense without doing their jobs on defense.
A rare outburst from the usually calm Cabanting worked in Na Menehune’s favor.
“I’m pretty sure you heard coach Alan yell,” DeBina-Bautista said. “When he yelled, that’s when we knew we had to get back into the game and we finally got back into it.”
Cabanting was irritated that his players — after being told to make sure to take care of short serves from the Mustangs — let a few short ones drop in.
“As soon as we settled down, whatever mistakes happened, I was OK with it in the sense that if they are disciplined the game will take care of itself,” the coach said.
DeBina-Bautista knew it was important to be aggressive with Ikenaga out.
“I had to step up and make sure it didn’t drag out to a fourth or fifth set,” she said. “I had to make sure I got the ball over and in.”
Cabanting said Ikenaga, for the most part, needs rest so her foot can heal without being constantly aggravated by the rigors of volleyball.
Na Menehune recently returned from a trip to Las Vegas, where they went 2-1 with wins over Coronado and Sierra Vista and a loss to defending Nevada state champion Bishop Gorman.
Cabanting believes the match against the tall, physical Gaels helped Moanalua in its five-set thriller over Kahuku — now ranked No. 6 in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser Top 10 — last Thursday.
“We were able to hit it around (defenders) and place it in better spots against Kahuku than when we played Bishop Gorman,” he said.
Elle Foehr led the Mustangs on Tuesday night with nine kills. Kylie Wolff added six, and Lauryn Makena had 13 assists.
Kalaheo (6-1) led that second set from 3-2 all the way to 20-19. Moanalua tied it at 21-all and there were ties at 24, 25 and 26 before the Mustangs let it slip away on a kill by Na Menehune’s Amariis Garcia.
“We didn’t go out and execute what we were supposed to,” Kalaheo coach Ed Chun said. “Before that, I don’t think the mind was right to take on the challenges the way we needed to. You’ve got to raise your game going into the other person’s house, the defending champs with a 6-0 record. They’re going to come out and bring it, which they did.”
Chun felt his team missed out on an opportunity to take advantage of Moanalua after Ikenaga’s injury.
“That’s a good lesson to learn,” he said. “It’s the midway point of the season and a great benchmark test to see where we’re at. What I would like to see better is a belief that they can compete against these types of teams.”