Warriors defeat Na Alii in playoff for league crown

Talia Leauanae of Kamehameha Schools Maui dives over teammate Inez Garcia to keep a ball in play during the fifth set of the Warriors’ 12-25, 25-22, 25-23, 25-27, 15-12 win over King Kekaulike on Saturday in the Maui Interscholastic League Division I championship match at Jon Garcia Gym. -- The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

WAILUKU — After the players got their medals, the Kameha­meha Schools Maui and King Ke­kau­­like girls volleyball teams gathered near midcourt at Jon Garcia Gym, sharing a moment after two days of staunchly challenging one another.

Kamehameha’s Talia Leauanae and King Kekaulike’s Chandler Cowell went toe to toe and kill for kill down the stretch — just as their teams had for more than two hours in the Maui Interscholastic League Division I overall championship match — before Leauanae slammed down the final ball in a 12-25, 25-22, 25-23, 25-27, 15-12 win for the Warriors.

Kamehameha (13-1) won the MIL D-I title for the eighth time in 11 years and stopped Na Alii’s three-year reign.

Moments before the decisive point, Leauanae required an injury timeout because of cramps in her lower leg and a pulsating headache.

“I didn’t want to call timeout, so I just served with the cramp still in my leg,” Leauanae said after recording 18 kills and 17 digs. “My head was pounding because I hit my head, like, six times on someone’s elbow. I was like, ‘No way, I’m not coming off.’ “

Kamehameha Maui’s bench storms the court after the final point of the team’s five-set, MIL championship-clinching win over King Kekaulike on Saturday. -- The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Both teams will be in the state tournament this week — King Kekaulike (9-6), which got 16 kills, 14 digs and two blocks from Cowell, will host a first-round match Monday against Mililani, while the Warriors are seeded third and will play a quarterfinal on Thursday in Honolulu against the winner of Monday’s match between Iolani and Waianae.

Saturday’s overall championship match was necessary after Na Alii’s four-set win in the MIL tournament final Friday.

“I think King Kekaulike really upped their game and they really improved this season, and I’m really proud of them,” Leauanae said. “I’m also really proud of my team for sticking it out and coming back from that loss last night. It feels so good to finally win (the MIL title) after four years.”

Alea Cervantes had 14 kills and 18 digs for Kamehameha, Kimani Fernandez-Roy finished with seven kills, Jasmine Corn had 12 digs and Inez Garcia had three aces.

The Warriors needed just about all of them.

The Warriors’ Tatiana Martinez (right) and Aliah Ayau put up a block against Na Alii’s Chandler Cowell in the fourth set. -- The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

“That was the definition of grit and heart,” said first-year Kamehameha coach Alex Aka­na. “It was past the point of skill level because both teams were just as skilled as the other, but it was a matter of heart and grit and preparation.”

King Kekaulike’s Nina Macphetridge had 14 kills, five digs and two blocks, Brooklynne Albrecht had 10 kills and Lauren Albrecht had 25 assists, three aces and 10 digs.

“Oh man, that was some good volleyball right there all the way around, so talk about momentum swings,” King Ke­kaulike coach Al Paschoal said before giving credit to Leauanae. “We love that girl to death. We’ve known Talia for so long and to see her definitely bloom into the person that she is and the player that she is, I couldn’t be more proud.”

The final set was tied after every other point from 6-6 to 12-12. A kill by Leauanae gave the Warriors a 13-12 lead before Fernandez-Roy had a block, and Leauanae then smacked her kill down the line.

“Very, very fitting,” Akana said of Leauanae producing the final point. “She’s worked hard to be a big part of this team, but she couldn’t do it without her teammates. We talk about it all the time — it takes a village. We’re stronger as one unit than we are as 15 individual players.”

Na Alii, who recently got Macphetridge and Cowell back from injuries but are still without Kalena Vaivai and Shaina Rapanot-Uyechi, will have today off before getting back to work Monday.

“We’re going to be battered, bruised and tired, but what’s the story?” Paschoal said. “I mean, what’s new? We’ve been like that all year.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com