There was no obvious sign that Falanika Danielson was woozy.
Or struggling with sinus infection. Or asthma.
The powerful outside hitter simply played through and delivered once again for No. 4-ranked Mililani. The senior crushed 24 kills, adding a block along the way, as the Lady Trojans defended their OIA Division I crown with a resounding 15-25, 28-26, 25-13, 21-25, 15-10 win over No. 5 Moanalua in the home gym of Na Menehune on Wednesday night.
Danielson was clutch with six kills and a block in the final set, scoring four of her team’s final six points. It was reminiscent of Monday night, when she scored the final five points for Mililani, which rallied from a 20-14 deficit in the fourth set to oust No. 6 Kahuku.
“My goal is just to push through. My main focus is to forget about my sickness and just keep thinking about the next point,” said Danielson, who has been ill for two weeks. “I really couldn’t breathe. I’m not going to school tomorrow. Moanalua’s just like us, very scrappy. We had great energy especially from our supporters.”
Senior setter/opposite Aysia Miller was also clutch with 33 assists and 11 kills. Her ability to shift seamlessly from setter to the right side was a thorn in Moanalua’s side. Nicole Kimura was on point with 16 assists, including five to Miller in the pivotal third set to give Mililani a 2-1 lead. With Miller’s sister, Aria (nine kills, three aces), adding another effective weapon, Moanalua’s resilient defense hung in for rally after rally.
So did the hustling Lady Trojans, however, who withstood the barrage by Tradie DeBina-Bautista (27 kills, two aces) and Tayli Ikenaga, who had 14 kills in 71 swings.
Led by libero Mariah Fukumoto, Mililani’s back-row play was the only one able to match previously unbeaten Moanalua. Miller, the dual threat, and her teammates never seemed to tire.
“Right before the game, what I thought to myself was I need to battle no matter what. Moanalua is very scrappy. They have a very good defense,” she said. “In club, I play outside hitter, so I’m used to that position, and with the setting, I just need to stay consistent.”
Coach Val Crabbe was ecstatic in her low-key way. After the post-match ceremony, she weaved through the crowd to give football coach Rod York a hug after his team showed up for the second time in as many matches to bring raucous, live electricity to Moanalua’s gym.
“I”m relieved. I’ve got to check the blood pressure,” Crabbe said.
This is Mililani’s fourth OIA title and second in a row, all under Crabbe and her staff.
“They’re always gunning for us, even when we’re in the West. We should embrace that,” she said.
Danielson agreed about the difficulty of playing with a bull’s eye on her team’s back.
“This one was definitely harder. The support from our supporters was great,” she said.
Both teams advanced to the Division I state tournament. For the complete schedule of games next week, click here.