PUKALANI - The Baldwin High School girls volleyball team has shared the spotlight in the Maui Interscholastic League Division I, that is, as much as any other team can with eight-time defending league champion Kamehameha Maui.
The Bears snapped the Warriors' MIL volleyball record 54-match league winning streak last season in the MIL D-I tournament final. Baldwin has been the MIL runner-up and a state tournament participant in four of the last five years, the only blemish on that run being when King Kekaulike captured the league's second berth in the state tournament in 2010.
Friday, the Bears will get a shot to derail the unbeaten Warriors in the MIL tournament final again, at 6:30 p.m. at Kaulaheanuiokamoku Gym on the Kamehameha campus.
Baldwin High School’s Kisaea Tasini (left) and Taylor Badois attempt to block a kill attempt by King Kekaulike’s Taylor Fernandez in the first set Tuesday.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
Third-seeded Baldwin (7-6) got there with a methodical 27-25, 25-19, 25-17 sweep of second-seeded King Kekaulike on Tuesday night at Na Alii's gym in a semifinal match.
"We had to work harder at practice and just be able to have more fun," Baldwin junior outside hitter Olivia Wallace said. "We had to cut down on the mistakes and we did better tonight. We are jelling better together and we working more as a team. We are working harder to try to push each other instead of push each other down."
A win for Kekaulike on Tuesday would have clinched a state spot, but Na Alii (7-6) now must hope that Kamehameha beats Baldwin in the tournament final to set up a second-place playoff between the Bears and Na Alii on Saturday night. Tuesday's result left the season series between the teams at 2-2.
At King Kekaulike
D-I tournament semifinal: Kamehameha Maui def. Maui High 25-16, 25-16, 23-25, 25-18
D-I tournament semifinal: Baldwin def. King Kekaulike 27-25, 25-19, 25-17
At Erdman Athletic Center
D-II tournament quarterfinal: Maui Prep vs. St. Anthony, 5 p.m.
D-II tournament quarterfinal: Lanai vs. Molokai, 6:30 p.m.
"Baldwin played really well," Kekaulike coach Kapeka Vares said. "Like I said before, they always seem to bring the best and worst out of us. I think they just wanted it a little bit more, so I'm OK with that. Hopefully, we will get another chance with them on Saturday."
Wallace, a 5-foot-5 dynamo, was nearly unstoppable as she finished with 17 kills. In the third set, she had seven kills, including the final three points of the match, an ace and a block.Bears
"She was on fire tonight," Vares said. "I'm always interested and intrigued to watch her, how aggressive she is with good or bad sets. That's pretty much what she is - unstoppable."
Taylor Badois, a 5-11 senior middle blocker, added seven kills, two blocks and three aces for the Bears. Gabby Cordoba, a 5-6 sophomore outside hitter, had seven kills and three aces. Setters Daisy Rano and Tulu Tulenkun had 21 and 12 assists, respectively.
"It feels like we have been on must-wins since the first game of the last round," Bears coach Kauila Houpo said. "The girls are coming around. They are kind of peaking at the right time."
King Kekaulike was led by senior outside hitter Taylor Fernandez, who had four kills, 11 digs and four aces. Pua Borden added five kills, and a dig, while Hiilei Mahuka-Kihewa had four kills and an ace.
Houpo said the shortest girl on the floor for much of the night, Wallace, came up big as she usually does.
"She's large every night," Houpo said. "That is not even her best game - she can do much better, everybody can do much better."
The Bears have two shots at the state tournament - and a win over Kamehameha on Friday would set up a winner-take-all finale Saturday for the MIL championship.
"We got to where we wanted to be, to at least have a shot at it," Houpo said. "After where we started, this feels good to be here. We still need to pick up our energy level. I'm trying to bring as much energy as I can."
* Rob Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org