VB: Hawaii Baptist brings it

Winning isn’t everything, but a big win means a little more for a little school.

Case in point: Division II Hawaii Baptist’s win over Kamehameha (12-1) last night in girls volleyball. Mind you, the Warriors may be four-time defending state champs in Division I, but this season has been one of development and growth for Chris Blake’s squad.

With all the talent that has graduated in the past few years, Kamehameha still has one of the best teams on the floor — and a No. 2 ranking — and will be in the running for a state berth as the ILH’s second round begins.

HBA (11-2), though, was just hungry for a win over one of the ILH’s powerhouse programs. Losses to ‘Iolani (three sets) and No. 1 Punahou (two close sets) whetted the Eagles’ appetites. Sarah Palmer (14 kills, 17 digs) showed plenty of promise with her back row skills — the same ones that will be on display when she’s a libero at Texas next season.

“Palmer played really well,” Kamehameha coach Chris Blake said. “Especially at the end of the match. We expect everybody’s best game. I’m proud of our girls. We just made some uncharacteristic mistakes.”

The win was also a little sweeter for senior C’era Oliveira, who has several family members who are Kamehameha graduates. Oliveira’s roll shots, somewhere between all-out spikes and tip shots, hit Kamehameha in the solar plexus more than once.

“Coach (Myles Shioji) taught to roll right in the middle,” Oliveira said. “He said it would be there all night.”

HBA’s defense played well enough to counter Kamehameha’s big swingers, Taylor Akana and Misty Ma‘a. The Warriors used a number of tip shots to score in the center of HBA’s defense. The Eagles, ranked No. 6, have little time to enjoy the win.

Tomorrow, they’ve got Word of Life, a team that swept ‘Iolani recently, and St. Francis on Friday. Kamehameha played without starting setter Kelci Renshaw, a former HBA student who transferred after eighth grade.

Renshaw’s pre-match injury — she hurt her ankle in warmups — meant a different look for Kamehameha offensively. All the middle attacks the Warriors had developed in recent weeks weren’t quite the same. They’ll have a day to work on their attack with backup setter Briana Saifoli before taking on first-place Punahou on Thursday.

The shrinkage of state-tournament fields means the ILH has just two D-I berths. With three Top 10 teams, plus quality squads like Maryknoll and Sacred Hearts, the second round of ILH play — a single-elimination tournament — will be tough.

In addition, matches are a best-of-5 format in that second round.

Kamehameha will be ready, Blake promised.

“This just makes us work harder,” he said.


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