Return of Kelia Giusta boosts Moanalua in five-set win over Mililani

Moanalua celebrates after the final point in a five-set thriller against Mililani. Moanalua will meet Kahuku for the OIA Division I girls volleyball title on Thursday. Paul Honda/

Kelia Giusta had to sit and wait.

A sore knee for the Moanalua outside hitter could have been problematic. Coach Alan Cabanting took a calculated risk, resting Giusta on Monday in the quarterfinal round.

Moanalua outlasted a gritty Kaiser squad 25-22, 25-22, 25-11. Giusta returned on Tuesday for the OIA semifinal battle with Mililani and helped Na Menehune to a 21-25, 25-17, 25-22, 22-25, 15-12 win.

Sophomore Malu Garcia had 24 kills and Giusta had 20 kills, including six in the fifth set.

“I feel great. That was a really, really fun game to play. Our team was amazing and our energy was great,” said Giusta, a 5-foot-11 senior.

Kahuku awaits unbeaten Moanalua (12-0) in Thursday’s final.

“We’ll rest and practice hard tomorrow to get ready for the next day. Our girls need to keep the energy up,” Giusta said. “I’m hungry for it.”

The combination of Giusta and Garcia from all angles required the precision of setter Allexis Iramina (43 assists) and consistent back row play. Libero Zoe Slaughter’s passing was crucial against one of the best serving teams in the state.

“I remember watching a Mililani game,” Iramina said. ‘They had 22 aces.”

“They’re good,” Slaughter added. “But I think we handled it really well. They do a lot of deep serves and this is the first team we had to challenge ourselves to put more emphasis on the first pass. They’re consistent. They’re smart players on that side.”

After two matches in two nights, Moanalua players were wrapped in ice after the tough win over Mililani, moving like mummies. Backs, legs, shoulders aching after outlasting one of the hottest teams in the islands. Garcia was constant, bringing her left-handed swing with the kind of placement more common for an older outside hitter. Giusta had just three swings in the opening set with no kills.

“Going back to the first set, we weren’t ready and disciplined. In the second set, our girls started having more discipline and having more trust in each other, keeping the energy up. We were talking about who wants it more,” Giusta said.

Moanalua coach Alan Cabanting gives his team a final word of advice during the final set of a five-set semifinal win over Mililani on Tuesday. Paul Honda/

Garcia’s promising freshman season was halted by the pandemic. With each big match, her confidence is growing.

“This competition is very different compared to during the (regular) season,” the 6-foot outside hitter said.

The last time Moanalua met Kahuku during league play was in the 2019 playoffs.

“My sophomore year, we lost to them in the finals,” Slaughter recalled. “It was definitely a good match, especially how hard everybody played.”

Kahuku and Kapolei were in the first set of their semifinal match in the gym.

“That’s anybody’s game right now. I wouldn’t take anything from those teams,” Slaughter said.

Kahuku went on to knock out Kapolei, the top seed in the West, in four sets.

Coach Alan Cabanting has guided Moanalua to girls volleyball league titles three times, in 2014, ’15 and ’17.

OIA Division I playoffs

Match #DateMatchupTime/ScoresSite
1Nov. 24Campbell (W4) vs. Kaiser (E5)Kais 25-12, 25-19, 25-16Farrington
2Nov. 24Pearl City (W6) vs. Farrington (E3)Far 25-22, 25-20, 25-13Farrington
3Nov. 24Kalani (E4) vs. Nanakuli (W5)Kaln 25-12, 25-15, 23-25, 25-13Waianae
4Nov. 24Waianae (W3) vs. McKinley (E6)Wain 25-16, 25-13, 25-22Waianae
5Nov. 29Mililani (W2) vs. FarringtonMil 25-16, 25-10, 25-18Moanalua
6Nov. 29Moanalua (E1) vs. KaiserMoan 25-22, 25-22, 25-11Moanalua
7Nov. 29Kahuku (E2) vs. WaianaeKah 16-25, 25-11, 20-25, 25-17, 15-10Kapolei
8Nov. 29Kapolei (W1) vs. KalaniKapo 25-14, 23-25, 22-25, 25-11, 15-7Kapolei
9*Nov. 30Farrington vs. KaiserKais 22-25, 27-25, 31-29, 18-25, 15-13Pearl City
10*Nov. 30Waianae vs. KalaniWain 23-25, 25-22, 25-19, 25-19Pearl City
11Nov. 30Mililani vs. MoanaluaMoan 21-25, 25-17, 25-22, 22-25, 15-12Moanalua
12Nov. 30Kahuku vs. KapoleiKah 25-18, 23-25, 25-21, 25-23Moanalua
13*Dec. 1Kaiser vs. WaianaeWain 25-20, 25-22, 25-20Kapolei
14*Dec. 1Mililani vs. KapoleiMil 24-26, 25-22, 17-25, 27-25, 15-13Kapolei
15Dec. 2Moanalua vs. KahukuKah 22-25, 25-22, 25-22, 25-20Moanalua
* — consolation

OIA Division II playoffs

Match #DateMatchupTime/ScoresSite
1Nov. 24Roosevelt (E2) vs. Waialua (W3) Roos 24-26, 26-24, 22-25, 25-23, 16-14Radford
2Nov. 24Radford (W2) vs. Kailua (E3)RadRadford
3Nov. 29Leilehua (W1) vs. RooseveltLei 25-22, 25-11, 25-16Kalaheo
4Nov. 29Kalaheo (E1) vs. RadfordKalh 26-24, 25-17, 21-25, 25-15Kalaheo
5*Dec. 1Roosevelt vs. RadfordRad 25-23, 25-21, 25-18Kapolei
6Dec. 2Leilehua vs. Kalaheo5:30 p.m.Moanalua
Kelia Giusta had six of her 20 kills in the fifth set as Moanalua defeated Mililani in the OIA semifinal round. Paul Honda/
Sophomore outside hitter Malu Garcia (24 kills) and senior setter Allexis Iramina (43 assists) helped Moanalua outlast Mililani on Tuesday. Paul Honda/
Moanalua coach Alan Cabanting (right) confers with his staff during the final time out of the fifth set on Tuesday. Moanalua outlasted Mililani and advanced to the OIA final. Paul Honda/


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