OLINDA - Just as it had been before, the King Kekaulike High School girls volleyball team made a strong opening statement, and then Baldwin answered.
In the end, Na Alii were the ones with the final say.
King Kekaulike beat Baldwin 25-20, 25-19, 20-25, 19-25, 23-21 on Saturday at Erdman Athletic Center in a playoff for second place overall in Division I of the Maui Interscholastic League, earning a berth in the state tournament.
King Kekaulike High School players celebrate a point during the second set of a 25-20, 25-19, 20-25, 19-25, 23-21 victory over Baldwin on Saturday at Erdman Athletic Center in a playoff for second place in Division I of the Maui Interscholastic League.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
"The really tough thing was keeping our energy up the entire time, and I credit my team for being able to do it, stay focused and be in the right place," said Na Alii's Taylor Fernandez, who finished with 12 kills, 10 digs and three aces.
King Kekaulike (8-6) placed second in the MIL regular season, and Baldwin was the league tournament's runner-up, forcing Saturday's showdown.
"You could tell both squads pushed hard for it and fought to keep their energy levels up," Vares said of the more than two-hour match. "They really had to rely on each other out there. That's what I appreciate about Baldwin, they always challenge us to do our best."
Hiilei Mahuka-Kihewa had five kills and four digs for Na Alii, Uii Javier-Kepani had three kills, eight digs and three aces and Kayla Uyesugi had 16 digs, an ace and a kill.
"We had pep talks on the court," said Javier-Kepani, who gave equal credit to her faith and her coach. "We had a hard time, all of us, the first couple sets, but we stayed together as a team. We stuck with it, and we did it."
Baldwin finishes the season with a 7-8 record.
"We came a long way from where we started this year," said Bears coach Kauila Houpo. "You really can't get any closer than we did at the end. We had our shots and just didn't make them."
* Chris Hamilton is at firstname.lastname@example.org