By Paul Honda
The Hawaii Baptist Eagles fought off the young, upstart Firebrands of Word of Life to capture their third Division II state championship in a row with a 25-22, 25-14, 19-25, 25-16 win on Saturday night at the Stan Sheriff Center.
A crowd of about 2,000 watched as HBA (21-2) closed the year with 15 consecutive wins, including an upset victory at Kamehameha during the regular season.
The senior core of Sarah Palmer, C’era Oliveira and Kayla Kawamura were at their best under the big lights again. Palmer, a University of Texas-bound senior, amassed 19 kills and a team-high 25 digs. Oliveira finished with 20 kills, three aces and seven digs, and Kawamura tallied 42 assists and 13 digs for the Interscholastic League of Honolulu D-II champions.
The Firebrands rallied to within 21-20 with three blocks, including two by Alohi Kahoohanohano, but couldn’t get over the hump. C.J. Asuncion won a joust, and Oliveira’s kill helped give the Eagles a 24-20 lead. Oliveira sealed the game with a kill on a set from backup Jordin Ramos.
A pair of aces by Oliveira set the tone early in the second set, and HBA never trailed. WOLA, which hit .081 in the opening game, hit .103 in the second against a resilient Eagle defense. Two aces by Palmer gave HBA a 21-12 lead en route to the second-set win.
Word of Life, a team stacked with underclassmen, staved off a potential sweep in the third set.
“We kind of settled them down,” Satele said. “We just had to stay patient.”
After five lead changes, the Firebrands went on a 4-0 mini-run, using Jedidah Hanakahi’s ace for a 17-12 edge.
HBA seemed to wilt just a bit, committing nine hitting errors (.071) in the game while WOLA had just two. Two kills by Kaina closed out the set and gave the Firebrands momentum.
It didn’t last.
Word of Life had to fight back get within 15-14 in the fourth game, but HBA scored the next seven points, getting kills from Palmer, Oliveira and Asuncion to regain control. A roll shot from Oliveira and a step-out kill by Brianna Lovett ended the match.
Word of Life is already anticipating a great future, especially with HBA losing its seniors.
“We’re getting ready for next year,” Kaina said. “HBA never gives up and that’s a life lesson for us. It’s not too much to say we can win the state championship (next year). It’s all God’s plan. We can fight for it.”
“I’m already looking forward to next year,” she said. “We’ve got a lot of talent coming back for the next three years.”