OIA volleyball semifinals are ‘epic’

Mililani middle blocker Madi Goodman (2) reacted after a point against Moanalua on an emotional night for all four teams in the semifinals of the OIA D-I playoffs. Photo by Jamm Aquino/Star-Advertiser.

Every so often, the editors in the office tune in to a TV broadcast of a game a reporter is covering. They’re usually wrapped up in putting the paper out and checking the TV only to see how close the game is to being over so they know when they can expect a story to be filed.

But on Monday night, the editors were wrapped up in the drama of the OIA girls volleyball semifinals.

After the first semifinal match at Moanalua, one of the editors texted: “Epic match!!!”

Then, after the second semifinal, another editor texted: “We watched the last set. That was great high school volleyball.”

Those comments underscore just how far OIA girls volleyball has come over the last decade. There is some legitimate talent out there, even though the ILH still has not relinquished its solid grip on dominance when it state-tournament time rolls around.

Monday’s Mililani-Moanalua second semifinal ended dramatically, but didn’t go the full five sets. The Kahuku-Kapolei first semifinal went the distance and was a toe-to-toe, back-and-forth struggle throughout.

Kapolei libero Tiffany Mook (1) dove on the ground on a dig attempt against Kahuku. Photo by Jamm Aquino/Star-Advertiser.

The fourth-ranked Trojans (12-0) ended Moanalua’s chance at a repeat title by beating ninth-ranked Na Menehune 25-23, 23-25, 25-23, 26-24. As you can see, all four sets were decided by only two points.

With Mililani up 22-19 in the deciding set, Moanalua (10-3) scratched back for a 24-23 lead and nearly brought it to a fifth set before falling.

The Trojans will meet No. 7 Kahuku (12-1) in the OIA title game Wednesday at McKinley’s gym. Kahuku is going for its 13th overall league crown. The Trojans are looking for No. 3.

In a match of pendulum swings, the Red Raiders somehow found the crucial momentum in the fifth set of a 25-21, 12-25, 25-21, 16-25, 15-11 victory over the 10th-ranked Hurricanes (10-2), who have never won an OIA Division I championship.

While listening to Kahuku coach Michelle Tevaga and Kapolei coach Naidah Gamurot after the match, it became evident just how much coaching goes into these teams’ efforts.

For Kahuku, Tevaga’s message was that the team had to learn to play as a unit and forget selfishness. Basically, she had to drill that in — until they finally got it in the fifth set.

“The girls were fighting through nerves and it was a matter of becoming more focused on what the end goal was, which is to play together,” Tevaga said. “We were so focused on our individual play instead of what they can do together — trusting each other instead of looking at each other. Once they realized that and the heart came in to play and all the nerves were shaken off, they ended up playing together, which was really nice to see. (In the fifth set), we were emphasizing heart and passion at that point. They were so focused on passing, so focused on hitting that the nerves started to come up. We were telling them, ‘We made it this far together. We didn’t make it this far because of one or two people. Once that set in that, ‘Hey we can do this together,’ it kind of kicked into high gear.”

Kahuku middle blockers Kalamela Liua (4) and Mary Fonoimoana (13) combined on the double block on Kapolei middle blocker Alizaysha Sopi (14) during the third set of the Red Raiders’ five-set win on Monday. Photo by Jamm Aquino/Star-Advertiser.

Kahuku’s fifth-set effort ruined what had been an amazing night for Kapolei setter Olivia Transfiguracion (49 assists) and especially middles Kailana Andrade, who is only a freshman, and Angel Nahinu.

“(The Kapolei middles) were awesome, and another reminder that we need to go back to the drawing board and get our middles more involved,” Tevaga said.

Actually, two Kahuku middles — Penina Mata’u and Mary Fonoimoana — made a big impact in the final outcome of the fifth set after being relatively quiet in the first four stanzas.

Kapolei’s Gamurot illustrated how her team has grown by leaps and bounds since the early part of the season.

A loss to Mililani in the regular season was a big impetus in the team’s improvement.

“The Mililani loss was a good loss,” said Gamurot, who lost a ton of offensive firepower to graduation. “There were periods of time, like in the ‘Iolani (preseason) tournament, that we were basically a JV team. Mililani showed us something that was missing for us and we went back to the gym and worked on it. That next day, the girls who walked into the gym were not the same girls who walked out of the gym. They had a little more understanding of the game and how it’s played. A lot of times when you have a young team, you try to generate situations so they can learn intangibles, but (that method) can be contrived and not natural and they don’t make a connection. This time, we worked on those things that we needed to work on and every single person saw it. We went from the JV to the varsity level in one day. All things considered, since then, the improvement we’ve made has been tremendous.”

Gamurot was still smiling despite the loss. Andrade did not look particularly happy, but when asked, she didn’t complain.

“I’m sad we lost, but we did fight to the end and that’s what I’m happy about,” she said.

Mililani setter Aysia Miller (7) and outside hitter Gabby Naniseni (16) combined on the double block on Moanalua outside hitter Tayli Ikenaga (16) during the OIA semifinals. Photo by Jamm Aquino/Star-Advertiser.


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