Built on the site of the former Kailua Drive-In, Le Jardin Academy provided a stunning plot twist in the Division II state girls volleyball tournament on Thursday.
In the program’s first state tournament appearance, the Bulldogs — who began the season with just seven players on the varsity roster — earned a spot among the final four teams still in pursuit of the Division II title with an upset of top-seeded Konawaena.
Le Jardin, the ILH runner up, advanced to face fourth-seeded Farrington in the 5 p.m. semifinal on Friday at Kaimuki. Seabury Hall and HBA meet in the 7 p.m. match for a spot in Saturday’s Division II final of the New City Nissan/HHSAA Girls Volleyball Championships at Blaisdell Arena.
“We’re so excited. This has really shown how hard we worked this season,” junior outside hitter Kassidy Naone said.
Naone certainly put in work on Thursday and her 26 kills in 73 swings popped off the stat sheet. But contributions throughout the roster sent Le Jardin to the 17-25, 25-17, 25-21, 25-20 upset of the two-time defending state champion and previously undefeated Wildcats (19-1).
After Konawaena pulled away in the first set, Le Jardin hit .355 in the second to even the match. Naone had nine kills in the pivotal third set and sophomore Natalie Piper had five of her 11 kills in the fourth to help the Bulldogs complete the upset.
Piper also had 23 digs and Taylor Souza, the Bulldogs’ lone senior, added 15 in the back row. Led by sophomore Arianna Lunow-Luke and junior Ka’imionalani Cobb-Adams, the Bulldogs also finished with 11 total blocks.
The Bulldogs also scored on six aces and first-year coach Lee Lamb credited the Bulldogs’ serving for helping them keep pace with the Wildcats. Julia Fisher had two aces to go along with seven kills, 11 digs and three blocks.
“The serves kept us in it today,” Lamb said. “Last night we kind of struggled, we had 11 service errors and tonight we kind of minimized that. And of course we had some big swings. We struggled a little on serve receive tonight, but we came through when we needed to.”
Setter Nina Krupa had 38 assists, 12 digs and three block assists and hammered an overpass to give the Bulldogs match point. Naone then punctuated the upset with her final kill and the Bulldogs overcame a 25-kill performance by Konawaena’s Chanelle Molina.
Konawaena hit .127 in the match and committed 18 hitting errors in the final two sets and saw its D-II reign end.
Lamb said Naone converted to outside hitter last year and the thin roster to start the season forced the Bulldogs to refine their all-around skills until they could add some depth after the conclusion of the junior varsity season.
“They all benefited from that because they were all forced to play defense and play all six rotations,” Lamb said.
“(Naone’s) touching 9-9, so she grabs the ball high and she’s going to have opportunities to put balls away.”
The Bulldogs secured one of the ILH’s four berths in the D-II state tournament, finishing as the league runner up behind HBA and entered their first state tournament with a roster that includes seven sophomores and three freshmen. And they did it with a new coach as Lamb spent last year’s state tournament coaching Kahuku.
“They’re definitely learning on the fly,” Lamb said. “We have all the tools. The game IQ is increasing every time we step on the court. Situational awareness is getting a little bit better. It’s still a work in progress, we have a lot to do.”
The next task will be to come up with a game plan for the semifinal match against OIA D-II champion Farrington, which swept University in Thursday’s first quarterfinal match at Kaimuki.
“That’s going to be interesting,” Lamb said. “We haven’t seen them all year. I only got to see a little bit of them earlier in their match. They definitely have some pieces, their middles are going to be formidable for us. They’ve got the lefty that hits the strong slide. That’s going to present some challenges for us. No time to prepare for them so just go out and play and hopefully we can create some kind of scheme to counter it.”