KEALAKEKUA — Marley Strand-Nicolaisen put together a five-star, across-the-board performance to help the Ka‘u girls volleyball team make school history Saturday night at Konawaena High’s Ellison Onizuka Gym.
She clobbered 29 kills to carry the Trojans over Konawaena 25-21, 25-27, 25-19, 25-15 for the Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division II championship, the school’s first for either the boys or girls programs.
The 5-foot-11 senior middle blocker also had three aces and three blocks. Strand-Nicolaisen also showed her diverse hitting skills, getting six kills from the back row, two on the right side and a pair of well-placed roll shots.
She was consistent from start to end, drilling seven kills in the first, nine in the second, six in the third and seven in the fourth, while also serving as a primary passer for setter Kerrilyn Domondson, who set balls on a dime all night long.
Kaila Olson provided additional firepower, knocking down 16 kills, including six in the final set for the Trojans (16-2), who only lost to Division I powers Kamehameha and Hilo.
Like Ka‘u, the Wildcats (13-5) also had their share of history chasing the BIIF championship. They were looking to end a long drought. Their last BIIF title was 1998, when there wasn’t statewide classification.
It’s only recently that Ka‘u has become a BIIF title contender, coinciding with the progress of seniors Strand-Nicholaisen and Olson and junior Toni Beck, the team’s nucleus.
The Trojans have qualified for states for three straight years and it was their second attempt at the BIIF championship, falling to HPA in 2010.
The Wildcats seemed poised to be BIIF title contenders for the next several seasons. Courtney Kaupu is a key senior starter, but a young nucleus features junior setter Makani Wall, middle Rayne Izumi-Baltero, sophomore outside hitter Kaela Avanilla and freshman hitter Chanelle Molina.
Any time Molina had a clean ball to hit, she blasted fastballs and finished with 14 kills. Avanilla and Kaupu, who picked up volleyball a year ago, had 11 kills each.
Both teams had jitters early in the match. Ka‘u had six service errors in the first set while Kona had one less.
But in the final set, there was no stopping the Trojans’ march toward history. They went on a four-point run to grab a 22-12 lead, and Olson capped Ka‘u’s finest season to date with a kill against a double-block.
HPA 3, St. Joseph 0
No matter the rotation, Hawaii Preparatory Academy presented too much firepower, and played a far cleaner game against St. Joseph, which fought hard and long but still fell short on Saturday at Konawaena High’s Ellison Onizuka Gym.
Tiana Reynolds, Gabbie Ewing and McKenna Ventura combined for 35 kills to spark the Ka Makani over the Cardinals 25-12, 26-24, 25-19 in the Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division II volleyball third-place game.
The Ka Makani (13-5) extended their state appearance streak to seven straight the hard way, playing in the third-place game — not exactly an uncomfortable situation for them. They also qualified for states from 2006 to ‘09 as the league’s No. 3 team.
Alison Fuata hammered 14 kills and Haley Thorsen added 11 kills to lead the Cardinals (10-8), who last went to states in 2006 as the BIIF Division II champion.
In the firepower department, HPA’s trio had more kills than St. Joe’s tandem, 35-25. That neutralized the bench production, won by the Cardinals, 3-1, who got two kills from Fiona Follett and Nicole Smallwood had one. Asia Kaden had the Ka Makani’s only other kill.
The loss not only marks the end for St. Joe’s four seniors, Thorsen, Smallwood, Georgia Pirie, and Lacey Toledo-Muragin, but also throws the future of the program into doubt with only four returning sophomores, Olivia Brinkman, Nozomi Nakazawa, Fiona Follett and Fuata, a promising middle blocker.
St. Joseph (10-8) didn’t have a junior varsity. The low numbers are affecting other sports as well. The small school won’t field boys and girls soccer, and girls basketball for the second straight season for winter sports.
At least the Cards went down swinging, something HPA coach Sharon Peterson admired.
“St. Joe kept hustling and digging our balls, and their big hitters (Thorsen ands Fuata) did a great job,” she said. “Fortunately, we were able to get more points. We attacked pretty well.
“It was scary today. We knew St. Joe wanted it. Both teams want to go to states, so that can be a hinderance. But our girls were able to pull it out. Our setters (Nua Potts and Tiana Bertelmann-Tabac) were able to get the sets up close to the net. That was important.”
For one thing, that allowed HPA’s trio to take clean swings against St. Joe’s defense, which dropped everyone back, except for a single blocker.
“I wasn’t surprised they had only one blocker. Most teams played us that way. I think it’s because they have a size disadvantage.”
Not only size and firepower, the Ka Makani also held the edge in fundamentally sound play. They committed just 20 unforced errors (hitting and serving); the Cardinals had 38 giveaway points.
In the first set, HPA made three big runs when Thorsen was stuck in back-row rotation, reeling off eight straight points and a pair of five-point spurts.
During the eight-point jaunt, Thorsen and Fuata were relegated to backcourt duty and the attack misfired with five unforced errors.
Potts had a service error to cancel the scoring spree, but two five-point streaks sandwiched a Fuata kill. And Ewing caught fire with five kills, including set point.