Top ’Cats again in D2: Grace, Konawaena ‘dig deep,’ outlast HPA

  • TIM WRIGHT/Tribune-Herald Konawaena celebrates Wednesday night after beating HPA 25-17, 19-25, 23-25, 25-19, 15-11 to win the BIIF Division II girls volleyball championship.

KEAAU — Hawaii Prep ramped up its ball-control, passing much better from the previous night, to give old rival Konawaena a competitive match, a tradition where the two bring out the best in each other.

But the Wildcats had too much veteran experience plus firepower and defeated Ka Makani 25-17, 19-25, 23-25, 25-19, 15-11 for the BIIF Division II championship on Wednesday at Keaau High’s gym.

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It’s the seventh time the familiar foes have met for the title, and Konawaena has won the last five times. In 2013 and 2014, the Wildcats won the HHSAA title as well, establishing themselves as the league’s dominant force.

Konawaena (11-4), which won its fifth title in six seasons, and HPA (9-6) next play at the state tournament, which runs Oct. 23-26 on Oahu.

Malie Grace hammered 27 kills on 80 swings and hit .225, freshman Braelyn Kauhi added 14 kills and hit a scorching .737, and Keisielynn Casuga had 11 kills for the Wildcats, who finished with 69 kills and a .172 hitting clip.

“Malie is a senior and did what a senior had to do,” Konawaena assistant Joe Wong said. “We started slow and lost confidence in the middle and had to dig deep. That won the game for us. It was a classic Konawaena-HPA showdown.”

It was a digger’s delight. HPA libero Jenna Perry had 33 digs; her team had 83. Konawaena libero Kailee Llanes-Kelekolio had 35 digs; her team had 92.

“It feels good, but it’s a team sport and it take a team to win,” Grace said. “We had to dig deep and play with heart.”

Kirra Brown drilled 18 kills and hit .244 and freshman Parker Lewis added 16 kills and hit .224 for HPA, which finished with 49 kills and a .174 hitting average.

In the first set, Konawaena scored nine straight points for a comfortable 13-3 cushion. The offense functioned at a high level with solid passing and setting. Grace hammered seven kills in the set.

Ka Makani came right back in Game 2, playing efficient ball with just seven unforced errors. Brown sparkled and slammed five kills in the set.

The Wildcats struggled a bit with their ball-control and had 12 unforced errors.

In Game 3, Konawaena’s strength, its serve-receive passing, took an extended coffee break, surrendering three aces. Throw in a whopping 12 unforced errors and that spells disaster and a 2-1 set lead for HPA, which had only three giveaway points.

Ka Makani played with confidence and took big swings; the Wildcats looked tentative and had too many soft attacks and bump-overs.

Parker, playing much bigger than her years, had five kills and Brown knocked down set point.

Game 4 was a high volume of efficiency. HPA had just six unforced errors, only one more than Konawaena.

Grace kept making shots, hitting off the block or finding the open floor. She finished with eight kills in the set, including three in a row for a 23-19 lead. HPA had a hitting error on game point to force a final set.

Ka Makani has a nice assortment of parts. There’s passing stability from senior libero Perry, blocking height in middle Brown, and promising youth in sophomore Kaiulani Bento (five kills) and freshman Lewis, two hitters.

Likewise, the Wildcats are built for the long-term. There’s All-BIIF sophomore libero Llanes-Kelekolio, freshman setter Taimane Alo, and freshman hitter Kauhi.

Make no mistake about it. The color schemes of the two, red and green, will be matching up again into the foreseeable future.

Third place

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Ka’u def. Pahoa 25-22, 25-21, 25-23: Chelsea Velez smashed 15 kills and hit .294 to lead the Trojans (9-7), who had a .109 hitting percentage. Jayda Pilanca-Emmsley and Lehiwa Freitas-Mose added eight kills each.

Maia Biegler had six kills to lead the Daggers (6-10), who had a negative .068 hitting clip.

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