For years, Hawaii Baptist’s girls volleyball program filled the alpha-dog role atop Division II.
Dynasty, yes. There is, however, room for two. Le Jardin sent a reminder of this on Tuesday night with a 19-25, 25-17, 25-22 victory at Charles B. Wang Gymnasium. The Bulldogs, ranked No. 7 in the Star-Advertiser Girls Volleyball Top 10, improved to 6-0 and took sole possession of first place in the Interscholastic League of Honolulu Division II standings. The first-place finisher in the regular season will earn an automatic berth in the state championships. No. 9-ranked Hawaii Baptist dropped to 5-1.
Natalie Piper led LJA with 15 kills and one ace. Julia Fisher added nine kills and two key blocks in the pivotal second set.
Kallie Langford led the visiting Eagles with 14 kills. For the match, HBA hit .162 against the taller Bulldogs, but it was five blocks in the opening set that stunned the home team. By the end of the first set, confidence dipped some, especially because of HBA’s block.
“We just wanted to inject some emotion in them and get fired up,” Le Jardin Coach Lee Lamb said.
Thus began the chess match. Lamb altered the lineup to get matchup advantages. HBA, which got 2.5 blocks from setter Ally Wada in the first game, finished with just one block in each of the final two sets.
“Le Jardin started a different rotation,” longtime coach Myles Shioji noted. “The matchups were better for them.”
“We flipped it,” Lamb said. “We tried to go 180 so Natalie could get a good matchup on the pin. They matched up really well with us. Honestly, I didn’t expect them to block us and shut us down so well. Once we flipped it around, I felt it opened up for us a little bit.”
HBA trailed throughout the second set, and in the third set, the teams had their first lead change of the match. The Eagles rallied from an 8-4 deficit to take a 13-10 lead on sophomore Riyana Werny’s kill. LJA’s 9-1 run included three kills by Piper, giving the Lady Bulldogs a 19-14 lead that they never relinquished.
Wada was a tremendous weapon. The standout basketball player dished out 20 assists to go with four kills, all on precise dump shots, and finished with 3.5 blocks.
“This is a good motivation for us. It’s more about executing when we need to. We’re always undersized, so we need to keep out of the net, avoid service errors. It’s a good learning experience,” she said. “It’s definitely frustrating and a little disappointing, but we have to get ready for Sacred Hearts on Saturday.”
Shioji says the Eagles will move on quickly.
“They’re kids, and sometimes kids make the moments bigger than they are. As long as we battle to win every point, it doesn’t matter if the moment is big,” he said.
HBA played well enough to win — which sounds like a cliche — but it is true.
“There’s tons of positives. Playing a good team like Le Jardin heightens the experience for us,” Shioji said. “We just need to stay in the moment.”
Le Jardin hit .267 and had five aces to HBA’s one. LJA was outblocked 7-4, but in the last two sets, the Bulldogs had a 4-2 edge at the net.
Freshman setter Nive Tuileta was flawless in the opening set with seven assists and three kills. She finished with 29 assists and an ace.
Middle Arianna Lunow-Luke added six kills and one block, and Halle Hatzler tallied two aces.
Britney O’Donnell added seven kills and 1.5 blocks, and Amber Loo had one kill and 2 blocks.