It was a new team but the same result for Pearl City.
The Chargers replaced all but a couple of players from their 2018 title team and persevered through some shaky moments to become back-to-back champions in OIA Division II volleyball with a 25-20, 18-25, 25-21, 25-17 defeat of Nanakuli on Wednesday night at Radford’s Jim Alegre Gymnasium.
It was the Chargers’ 12th OIA title all-time, and second in Division II. Nanakuli was denied its first OIA title.
Their roster was constructed mainly of junior varsity call-ups, freshmen and other first-year players.
The notable Pearl City returnee was hitter Sonny Tofi, who put down 19 kills, including the match-winner among his four big ones in Set 4. Middle JC Lee also returned.
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“It was honestly pretty exciting (to go back to back), but it honestly was very difficult,” Tofi said. “It was like a completely new team. I knew I had to keep working on chemistry and our blocks. (But) it’s a very easy team to work with. We’re very close.”
Pearl City sprayed shots everywhere most of Wednesday’s match, racking up errors like math students attempting to divide by zero on a calculator. But they were undeterred. They came back down 19-15 in Set 1, using a 10-1 run to take the frame.
“If they don’t swing, they’re not going to get kills anyway,” coach Sean Chang said. “So I told them I’m OK with the errors, as long we get more points than errors.”
Tofi alone had 14, hitting .094. But he delivered when it mattered.
The Chargers seemed to know they were playing with house money; their title defense was almost over before it started. In a first-round playoff game against Kaimuki, the Chargers were down 14-12 in Set 5 before rallying for the victory. They were also down a set twice in the match.
It had a galvanizing effect.
“Oh, man,” Tofi said, recalling the April 17 comeback. “That carried forward a lot, on to the next match, and even into this match.”
Said Chang, “We fought off about three or four elimination points. So I think that was a big confidence booster for us. It showed that we can play defense, it showed that we can come back from really any deficit at that point.”
Kaipo Burnett and Lafaele Matautia had seven kills apiece to lead the Golden Hawks.