Na Alii clinch state berth
Cowell helps lead King Kekaulike to sweep of Baldwin in MIL semifinals
WAILUKU — When the King Kekaulike High School girls volleyball team looked like it was in trouble on Tuesday night, Chandler Cowell stepped up like she has so many times in her career.
Cowell’s dominant play in the second set led King Kekaulike to a 25-13, 25-20, 25-15 victory over Baldwin in a Maui Interscholastic League Division I tournament semifinal at Jon Garcia Gym, nailing down a sixth straight state tournament berth for Na Alii.
They will play Kamehameha Maui in the tournament final Friday.
With her team trailing by five points in the second set, Cowell had six kills and a block as part of a 12-3 run to the finish of the stanza.
Cowell missed four matches this season with a slight tear in her rotator cuff.
“I’m excited, I’m ready to play ball, I’m happy to be back,” the senior outside hitter said after recording 14 kills, 12 digs and two aces. “The team is looking better than ever, we’re getting healthy, we’re being positive. We’re just being a team again and it’s really, really nice and refreshing.”
King Kekaulike (8-5) had hopes of seeing last season’s MIL Player of the Year Kalena Vaivai return from a broken foot that she suffered in the preseason, but her last visit to the doctor ruled her out for the rest of the season. Libero Shaina Rapanot-Uyechi, a verbal commit to the Air Force Academy, was already on the sideline for the remainder of the year with a torn ligament in her knee.
Cowell, who plans to sign a volleyball scholarship agreement with St. Mary’s (Calif.) College next month, was joined back on the court for the start of the MIL tournament by junior outside hitter Nina Macphetridge, who missed three matches with a concussion.
“Nina, honestly, she’s like my other half,” Cowell said. “She’s doing great out there. I’m so proud of her. She’s really stepped up this season.”
A resounding Cowell kill in the first set gave King Kekaulike an 11-4 lead and helped establish the tone for the match.
Baldwin went on a 7-1 run in the second set to take a 17-12 lead before Cowell’s run of offense reversed the momentum.
“Honestly when I came in I said to the girls, ‘It’s crunch time, it’s time to do work, we’ve got to get everything right,’ “ Cowell said. “I said, ‘Girls, we have this. Let’s go.’ “
Kekaulike opened an 18-9 lead in the third set and wasn’t seriously challenged again.
Nanna Inouye had four aces, an assist and 20 digs for Na Alii. Kiana Correa had three aces and 19 digs, Daniella Wittenberg had four kills, a block and two digs, and Victoria Martins had 18 assists, an ace and two digs.
“It’s amazing, honestly,” King Kekaulike coach Al Paschoal said. “All we can talk about is the roll that we’ve had here. The girls have worked hard to get where they’re at. Honestly I couldn’t be more pleased with the opportunity the (young) girls had this year to step up and really make a difference.”
The Bears (5-8) were led by Sela Panuve, who had six kills. Siena DeCambra added three kills, an ace, nine assists and two digs, and Alisa Kuehu had five kills, five blocks, four assists and a dig.
“They’re a good team,” Baldwin coach Helaman Aiwohi said of King Kekaulike. “I just don’t think tonight, maybe… . We prepped for them and we thought we could hang with them. But, yeah, they’re a tough team.”
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com.
D-I semifinal: Kamehameha Maui def. Lahainaluna 25-19, 25-16, 25-13
D-I semifinal: King Kekaulike def. Baldwin, 25-13, 25-20, 25-15
D-II quarterfinal: Molokai vs. St. Anthony at Baldwin, 5 p.m.
D-II quarterfinal: Lanai vs. Maui Prep at Baldwin, 7 p.m.
D-II semifinal: Molokai-St. Anthony winner vs. Hana at Baldwin, 5 p.m.
D-II semifinal: Lanai-Maui Prep winner vs. Seabury Hall at Baldwin, 7 p.m.
D-II final: Teams TBA at Baldwin, 5 p.m.
D-I final: Kamehameha Maui vs. King Kekaulike at Baldwin, 7 p.m.