(Note: Space limitations in this morning’s print edition, so here’s the full story on last night’s Waiakea victory over co-host Kamehameha-Maui.)
PUKALANI, Maui — To overcome the aura of a University of Hawaii recruit, the Waiakea Warriors stayed true to their roots.
The unseeded Warriors, runner-up from the Big Island Interscholastic Federation, turned a stalemate into a rousing 23-25, 25-23, 25-23, 25-14 victory over No. 2-seeded Kamehameha-Maui.
KS-Maui (14-1) got 18 kills from UH-bound Ginger Long, but Waiakea’s resilient defense never let her get untracked after the second set. Long, a 5-foot-11 outside hitter, had 12 kills in the first two sets and just six after that against a block led by Ashia Joseph.
“We’re excited. We’re ready to play tomorrow,” Joseph said of the semifinal matchup with Kamehameha (Kapalama). “We wanted it so much. It’s the first time a Big Island team has been in the semifinals.”
The undersized visitors from Waiakea (17-1) got 19 kills and five aces from Morgan Rapozo. Joseph added 10 kills and shared setting duties with several teammates in Waiakea’s unique offensive look. Joseph finished with 22 assists.
“We didn’t want to take it to five. We didn’t that pressure on us,” Rapozo said. “We felt like if we fired it up right then, we wouldn’t have to worry about playing a (fifth) 15-point game.”
Kerisa Pakani-Tsukiyama was another weapon with 10 kills and four aces. Waiakea racked up 11 aces, including six in the pivotal third set, and outblocked the taller home team 4-3.
Leimane Kane, a 5-11 sophomore, had eight kills for KS-Maui. Mailani Baz added six kills and Kaulana Ane chipped in with six.
KS-Maui had no hitting errors in the first set, but committed 15 in the next three games.
The third set had five lead changes, including a block by Janell Dulan on Long to give Waiakea a 19-18 lead. The game was tied at 23 when Rapozo drilled a kill, and a net violation on KS-Maui gave the visitors a 2-1 lead in the match.
Waiakea went on a 10-2 run midway through the fourth game to take command, 21-12, and never looked back.
“We knew Ginger Long was going to be a challenge for us, so we set up Ashia and got some touches. (Long) is a phenomenal player. We just didn’t want her to get 30 kills on us,” Waiakea coach Chris Leonard said. “We cut down on the errors, which has been a big problem for us.”
Libero Alyssalyn Buyuan led the back row for Waiakea.