Kainoa Obrey. A happy man.
He’s not leaping for joy. Not in public. Maybe that’s something that happens when the ‘Iolani Raiders have quiet time together. They won their first girls volleyball state championship since 2001 — when the late, great Ann Kang was head coach — and when all the exuberance and hugging was done, the Raiders calmly departed Neal Blaisdell Center.
The pendulum swung painfully wild at times for ‘Iolani this season, from nearly being eliminated from state-tourney qualification, all the way to the pinnacle with a four-set win over mighty Kamehameha. It was a matter of surviving and thriving in the good, ole, brutal Interscholastic League of Honolulu, with a climatic peak performance in the state championships.
Obrey was reflective after what may have been one of the most agonizing, roller-coaster late-season rides of any champion since… Kamehameha of 2015. The Raiders finished second to the Warriors then. The roles changed on Saturday.
“Those tough moments and those tough matches kind of prep us,” Obrey said. “Once we get into that do-or-die situation, our kids kind of got into a rhythm. They played free against Punahou (during the ILH second round). The momentum of that match, we love playing at home with our fans’ support, it helped propel us into this week, that’s for sure.”
Denying Kamehameha, a 20-time state champion, and beating them in just four sets — unexpected, to be sure. Elena Oglivie closed out a sensational freshman season with 23 kills at a .344 clip, earning all-tournament most outstanding player honors. Teammate Saige Ka‘aha‘aina-Torres was right behind with 22 kills. She was named to the all-tourney team along with senior setter Ana Oglivie, Elena’s older sister.
Elena Oglivie, a 6-foot leaper, didn’t know about the MOP honor as her teammates and their families congregated outside the main entrance long after the match.
“Oooh. That’s good,” Elena Oglivie said. “I didn’t know. That’s just unreal to be a freshman and do that. That’s basically all my teammates. They give me the confidence to do that. Our offense is pretty balanced. We work on it a lot at practice. Our middles contributed, our right sides contributed and our back-row attacks, it just works together really well.”
It wasn’t just rockets from big hitters, though.
“That’s something special our kids were able to do. They’re growing each and every day and they’ve put in the work, and trust each each and what we’re teaching. It all comes together for a positive result for us,” Obrey said.
Schematically, the Raiders tightened up defensively, which is seemingly impossible against Kamehameha and its mastermind, eight-time state champion coach, Chris Blake.
“We took a look at how we can defend a little better against them. Playing them four times throughout the year definitely gives us a lot of information to look over again and see if we missed some things, and apparently we did,” Obrey added. “We were able to made those adjustments with our eye work, with our blocking and back row, got us into good positions. Mainly, reading what’s happening on their side, trying to get us in better position.”
Kacie Miyama (19 digs) and Sammie Worley (17) provided the base for a superb back-row effort. Elena Oglivie (22 digs) and Ana Oglivie (15), as well as Ka‘aha‘aina-Torres (10) also contributed to an 88-dig night by the Raiders.
“I feel like it wasn’t really that different from what we were doing before. Today, we were on top of it,” Miyama said.
“The hardest part is we make mistakes and we can’t really score points,” Worley said.
“But our team recognizes it. They all see it and we all help each other out,” Miyama added.
Senior Halia Hogan and Sasha Petticord had five kills each. Hogan is optimistic about the future.
“I really believe in this team. Everyone kept saying we were the underdog this year, so I know they’re going to go far next year and in the years after that,” Hogan said.
That’s good prognostication from a seasoned senior. Kamehameha may well be an eternal dynasty. ‘Iolani? Two titles. But with so many dragons chasing one another with constant fury and fire in the ILH, there’s only up or down.
A majority of the Raiders roster is also part of Obrey’s Kui Kahi Volleyball Club. Most, if not all clubs, began tryouts on Saturday. The work and momentum toward a 2017 title run has already begun.