HONOLULU — Konawaena’s Chanelle Molina slammed 28 kills and outdueled Hawaii Prep’s Gabbie Ewing, who had 22 kills, in a battle of dominant hitters in the finale at the Hawaii High School Athletic Association Division II girls volleyball state championships.
In a rubber match with history on the line, the Wildcats beat HPA 25-16, 24-26, 25-18, 25-12 on Friday night at McKinley High’s gym in the first All-Big Island Interscholastic Federation title matchup in the nine-year history of the Division II state tourney.
The BIIF runner-up Wildcats (18-3) captured their first state crown and the league’s first since 1974, won by Hilo and before statewide classification started in 2005.
The BIIF champion Ka Makani (15-4) lost in three sets to Kona in the regular season, but prevailed in five sets over their West Hawaii rival for their third league title in four years.
It’s the best run at states for HPA in its eight years, and for Kona, which has qualified the last three years. The Division II state championship was not only an All-BIIF first-time affair, but also a milestone for each team.
Molina, a sophomore outside hitter, took a whopping 83 swings, made 10 errors and hit .217. Sophomore middle blocker McKenna Ventura added eight kills on a .179 hitting clip, and freshman hitter/setter Celena Molina slammed seven kills and hit .103.
Junior middle blocker Kaela Avanilla, another part of a young nucleus, added seven kills, and perspective on how Konawaena brought home its first state title.
“What I liked is that we played as a family, one team, like sisters and we came out as one,” Avanilla said. “This feels so great. The feeling of being state champion is unexplainable. It makes me shake. It’s the best feeling in the world.
“Chanelle is a great individual and athlete. She’s a teammate who always picks you up. She’s always there by your side. Celena is the same thing. Her sister is a role model to her. Chanelle is the glue and she glues us all together.”
The Wildcats barely outhit HPA (.134 to .118), but had far more kills (55 to 39). They also had outstanding defense from Celena Molina (29 digs), Chanelle Molina (20 digs) and senior libero Ela Seier (10 digs) and Avanilla (10 digs).
But the biggest difference was the Wildcats’ first two touches on the ball — passing and setting — were much cleaner. Senior setter Makani Wall received on-the-money passes, connected well with her hitters, and dished out 44 assists; Ka Makani setter Tehane Reynolds had 24 assists and Tiana Bertelmann-Tabac added nine assists.
One clear sign of Kona’s precision was Wall running step-out plays for the athletic Avanilla. That’s a set (not run much at the high school level) that requires timing, and accurate passing and setting.
“Every day our girls get better and better,” Kona coach Ainsley Keawekane said. “We left everything on the floor. We could be down in a set, but we fought and fought to the end. Every year, the kids are getting older and more mature. With our girls, we’ve got very mature underclassmen. We work a lot on our ball-handling and mechanics.
“To have two Big Island teams in the finale, that’s awesome. We wanted to show that the Big Island can compete with the OIA and ILH. Those teams have a lot of greatness, but we wanted to show that we can be part of that greatness.”
One other eye-opening sign was kill attempts: Kona took 194 swings; HPA had only 161 attempts, because of too many free balls — all due to their shaky ball-control. What’s the big deal about the difference in attacks? The Wildcats had an average of eight swings more per set to put a point down.
That’s something Ka Makani coach Sharon Peterson noticed. She was also aware that her ballclub was more emotionally charged in the semifinals on Thursday in a three-set sweep over Saint Francis, the two-time defending state champion.
“We made too many mistakes,” she said. “At times, we would get our momentum going, but something would happen to break it. We had our moments but couldn’t sustain it.
“I think we were trying a little too hard. Our spirit was not there, like against Saint Francis.”
Like her Hoopa club teammate Chanelle Molina, Ewing took the majority of the attacks. She had 81 attempts, committed eight errors and finished with a .173 hitting clip.
Senior hitter Tiana Reynolds knocked down 12 kills on 53 swings and hit .075 for HPA, which won the blocking battle (7.0 to 3.0) but not much else. Ka Makani middle Alaina Bradley had four block assists and Tehane Reynolds had three block assists.
And like Chanelle Molina, Ewing had a double-double with 22 kills and 25 digs. Tiana Reynolds added 20 digs, senior libero Kawena Lim-Samura contributed 12 and junior Tehane Reynolds had 10 digs.
In the momentum-swinging third set, Kona had a key four-point run, two Chanelle Molina kills sandwiched a pair of aces by Haena Keawekane for a 22-15 lead. Then a Ka Makani hitting error and a smoked line shot by Celena Molina closed the set.
In the fourth set, the Wildcats led 23-19 but had two consecutive hitting errors. Then Celena Molina worked a line shot, and HPA hit into the net, ending the milestone state finale.
“This feels so good to have a state championship in my first year,” the Konawaena freshman said. “We’re ready for the next years to come.”
Kamehameha 3, Punahou 0: Alohi Robins-Hardy slammed 13 kills and hit .385 and Tiyana Hallums added 12 kills as the Warriors defeated the Buffanblu 25-19, 25-20, 25-15 to win the state championship on Friday night at Koaia Gym, snapping Punahou’s two-year reign.
The Warriors (18-1) won the six titles in a row from 2005 to ‘10.
McKenna Rose Granato had 10 kills to lead the Buffanblu (16-4), who are coached by former UHH standout and NAIA Hall of Famer Tanya Fuamatu-Anderson.
Kahuku 2, Kamehameha-Hawaii 0: Adora Anae smashed eight kills and Taila Afalava added seven kills to lead the Red Raiders over the Warriors 25-20, 25-19.
The Oahu Interscholastic Association’s No. 3 team hit just .111 but Kahuku (16-3) limited Kamehameha to just a .017 hitting clip.
Kaiu Ahuna had six kills and eight digs to lead the Warriors (17-3), the four-time defending Big Island Interscholastic Federation champion.