Na Alii move atop D-I standings

PUKALANI – The King Kekaulike High School girls volleyball team is taking veteran coach Al Paschoal to new territory.

Na Alii swept Maui High 27-25, 25-23, 25-21 at the King Kekaulike Gym on Tuesday night to set up a first-place showdown on Thursday with nine-time defending Maui Interscholastic League Division I champion Kamehameha Maui at Kaulaheanuiokamoku Gym.

Na Alii rode their dynamic defense, piling up 89 digs, the 38 assists of senior setter Kalia Aguera and the hitting of Bree Rodrigues (17 kills) and Treyanna Freitas (10 kills) to hold off the Sabers in each close set on Tuesday night.

“Another battle against a well-coached team, very dynamic on both sides of the net,” Paschoal said. “I gave (Maui High coach) Lena (Quilantang) a hug there at the end and said, ‘What a battle this is going to be at the end of the season.’ “

Na Alii (6-1) took a half-game lead on the Warriors (5-1), while Maui High fell to 4-3. Those three teams were all 1-1 against each other in the first round of MIL play, including Na Alii dealing the Warriors just their second league loss in the last six seasons.

“There is just so much quality volleyball being played, the ball can bounce any way at any night,” Paschoal said. “It was big for us to win that first set. The last time we played it went to five and they got the better of us. We really wanted the first set that night and we weren’t able to do that, so we really wanted it tonight.”

Paschaol said facing the Warriors on their home floor – where King Kekaulike beat them the last time around – will be a challenge.

“Everyone has improved so much and it is every round,” said Paschoal, who left his coaching job at St. Anthony after last season. “I’m coming from D-II, where it is two rounds. Now, it is three rounds (in D-I) and there is three rounds of madness this year. I love it.”

Freitas, a 5-foot-3 sophomore outside hitter, transferred to King Kekaulike this fall. Freitas had 19 digs and fellow sophomore outside hitter Piikea Dudoit added 20 digs, six kils and three aces. Aguera had 16 digs, while Rodrigues added four blocks and two digs.

“It was an amazing win, they played really tough, but we played a little bit tougher,” Freitas said. “We played every ball like it was game ball, nothing hit the floor.”

Freitas is loving every minute with her new team.

“It is really tough, we thought we were going to be, like, super, super good,” Freitas said. “We want to be really good at the MIL tournament. They are all super cool, I love my team. I wouldn’t trade them for the world.”

Maui High coach Quilantang said her team came out a bit flat and Na Alii dug seemingly every ball.

“They had some really good defense, it seemed like every ball was coming back at us,” Quilantang said. “You have got to give it to them, they are a good team.”

She agreed with Paschoal’s take on the race.

“This is exciting,” she said. “You never know who is going to show up. We didn’t show up today.”

* Robert Collias is at