The dream of standing alone in first place came crashing down rather suddenly for Ka‘u at the Hawaii High School Athletic Association Division II state volleyball tournament.
Defending state champion Saint Francis brought out a broom and swept the determined Trojans 25-23, 25-21, 26-24 in the semifinals on Thursday at Kalani High in Honolulu, once again, displaying the Interscholastic League of Honolulu’s dominance.
In the seven-year history of statewide classification, ILH schools have won six Division II state championships. The only exception came in 2010 when Molokai — powered by future Rainbow Wahine Kalei Adolpho — swept University High, an ILH team.
The ILH’s state stranglehold applies to Division I as well. Since 1982, the private-school league has won every single championship, except in 2002, when Kahuku defeated St. Joseph at Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium.
The Trojans’ march toward a history-making season is not over. They won the school’s first Big Island Interscholastic Federation volleyball championship. They can be the first BIIF school to claim third place in the Division II state tournament.
No. 4 seed Ka‘u (17-3) plays No. 2 seed and OIA champion Farrington (13-3), which has an enrollment of over 2,000 students, for third place at 2 p.m. today at Blaisdell Arena.
It’s not the first time the Saints defeated the Trojans. Saint Francis won in straight sets in 2010, when Ka‘u made its first trip to states.
Disappointment was felt for a second time. But that was a backdrop to a hard lesson learned: discipline comes first for Ka‘u coach Josh Ortega, who benched senior Marley Strand-Nicolaisen in the first set for breaking team rules, he said.
In two sets, she pounded 12 kills and had an ace. Kaila Olson added eight kills and an ace.
Angel Savea blasted 19 kills to lead the Saints while Pualehua Keola served four aces.
“We played pretty good. All the sets were really close,” Ortega said. “They had (Savea), and they consistently dug balls. Saint Francis was a little shaky in the beginning, but once they got going they were just playing volleyball, and their defense is pretty good, too.
“The first set we did really well. We couldn’t ask for any more. To me, the girls came together, stuck with it and played their best and tried their hearts out.”
The Trojans have seven seniors and next season will have a much different look without key starters Strand-Nicolaisen and Olson, a tough server and mobile middle blocker.
But Ka’u can put the process of retooling on hold. The Trojans have one last shot to make history. At the very least, all of the them bring home a valuable lesson — that there are more important things than winning a volleyball match.
“The biggest thing for the team, the point I’ve been trying to get across, is make good choices and you’ll have a good outcome. That’s the bottom line of it all,” Ortega said. “The girls have that Facebook thing about making history. History making is fun stuff for them.
“But it’s the little things that are most important, doing what we have to do, believing in ourselves and making good choices. I repeat that all the time, and that is what’s really important to us. If you believe in that, good things will come.”
• Hawaii Prep def. La Pietra 20-25, 25-14, 15-7: Gabbie Ewing hammered 13 kills, Tiana Reynolds had 11, and McKenna Ventura added six to lead Ka Makani (15-6), which play Waimea (12-1) for fifth place at 11 a.m. today.
Salote Lopes-Liutolo had 11 kills, and Anna Sattler added eight to lead the Panthers (9-11), the ILH’s No. 3 team.
• Moanalua def. Kamehameha-Hawaii 22-25, 25-18, 15-12: The Warriors (17-2) entered the state tournament as the unbeaten three-time BIIF champion. It’s the second straight year they’ve taken a two-match exit. Stats were unavailable.