By Paul Honda
For once, the Red Raiders of Kahuku looked awfully green.
Kahuku saw a late four-point lead dissipate into an opening-game loss, and Carsen Mata’s superior savvy sparked Moanalua to a 26-24, 25-14 sweep last night in the regular-season opener for both teams.
Mata, a senior setter and returning Star-Bulletin All-State/Fab 15 selection, finished with 20 assists and four kills. She was in total command, dinking her way for kills and delivering cross-court sets to a battery of hitters.
Sophomore Erin Perez had a team-high 11 kills to go with an ace and a block. Gabby Matautia added six kills and Coty Barrientos added three.
Moanalua’s defense was a big factor, too. Kylee Oshiro led a relentless charge that stymied the visiting Red Raiders with dig after dig. Mata, though, is the glue.
“Carsen definitely helps us as a leader. Our outside hitters are a little young or new there,” coach Tommy Lake said.
Kahuku was ahead 24-20 in the first set when a service error and hitting error gave Na Menehune a big break. Tasha Meyer’s block brought Moanalua within 24-23, and another hitting error by the Red Raiders allowed the home team to tie the set.
Elizabeth Blake’s blast from the left side seemed to be a sure point for Kahuku, but Oshiro hustled to the far end of the floor — near the wrestling area — and made an incredible save to keep the ball in play. Kahuku wound up with another hitting error on that point to give Moanalua a 25-24 lead.
A volley by Kahuku setter Teuila Nautu went long, and Na Menehune had the first set.
After that, Moanalua faced little resistance. Kahuku struggled at times against Moanalua’s serve; Na Menehune had three of their five aces in the second game. Meanwhile, the Red Raiders committed six service errors and had no aces in the second set.
An ace by hard-hitting Katiana Ponce, and kills by Mata and Perez turned a two-point cushion into an 11-5 lead for Moanalua. A kill by Blake brought Kahuku within 16-12, but Moanalua went on a 7-0 run to put the game and match out of reach. Perez had a block and a kill during the mini-blitz, and Stephanie Dolan added an ace. Perez’s kill ended the match.
Moanalua hit .277 for the match and limited Kahuku to .167 hitting. In all, Kahuku committed eight service errors; Moanalua had just three.
Kahuku coach Uila Fotu-Vendiola expected more from her young team. The Red Raiders played better, she said, in a scrimmage at Kamehameha recently.
“Tonight, we struggled with our serving. It could be nerves, but we struggled with our passing. Moanalua did a good job getting us out of our system,” Fotu-Vendiola said. “I know we didn’t play our best. (At) Kamehameha, it was a quick level. Here, it was a lot slower pace. Moanalua serves well in terms of placement.”
That serving prowess neutralized Kahuku’s powerful middles, including Amanda Tonga.
“We tell them to serve in the gaps,” Lake said. “As long as we make the passer move and hopefully identify someone who’s not passing as well. It seems to work for our team. There’s a flow.”
Oshiro’s skill as a defensive player is nearly matched by her serving.
“Having a libero who can serve, that makes a big difference,” Lake said. “She’s a tough server. Defensively, she refused to let that ball go down. I didn’t even know if she was going to start tonight. She has that go-for-it attitude, and that really helps.”
Jennifer Lakin’s play in the middle was another factor.
“Liz (Blake) kept chipping over Ana (Ponce), so we put in Dolan,” Lake said.
Blake had four kills in seven attempts (with one hitting error) in the first set, but slowed down with four kills in 12 attempts in the second.
Nautu had a team-high 15 assists for Kahuku. Ho‘oani Apo and Tonga added four kills each. Blake and Tonga were All-State honorable mention picks last season. All-State/Fab 15 selection Nile Te’o graduated.
Lake is looking forward to the rest of the season.
“The fun thing about this team, no one’s near the ceiling,” he said. “There’s a lot of growing to do.”
Three Na Menehune who made the All-State honorable mention list last year — Ashley Asing, Lahela Kaili-Laroya and Kaylee Ponce — graduated.
Kahuku and Moanalua play in the Ann Kang Invitational, which begins today.
Mililani def. Leilehua 25-19, 25-8
Pearl City def. Waianae 25-13, 25-11
Moanalua def. Kahuku 26-24, 25-14
Farrington def. McKinley 25-22, 14-25, 18-16
Junior varsity girls
Mililani def. Leilehua 25-10, 25-13
Pearl City def. Waianae 25-18, 26-24
Moanalua def. Kahuku 25-7, 25-18
Farrington def. McKinley 25-15, 25-9
Mililani def. Leilehua 25-15, 25-23
Pearl City def. Waialua 25-17, 25-6
Moanalua def. Kahuku 25-11, 25-22
Farrrington def. McKinley 25-20, 25-18