By CLINT ZAVODNY
Stephens Media Hawaii
KEALAKEKUA —Sophomore outside hitter Chanelle Molina checked back into the game just in time to put an exclamation point on Konawaena’s 25-20, 25-20, 26-24 victory over Hawaii Prep in a Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division II volleyball match Wednesday night at Colonel Ellison S. Onizuka Gymnasium.
With the Wildcats leading 24-21 in the third set, Molina briefly came out for a breather in what appeared to be the end of the match. But within moments, Ka Makani came surging back to tie it at 24-24. But Molina came back in to the game and responded with a pair of flying aerobatic kills to lead the Wildcats to an exciting 26-24 victory.
“I think I just mostly feel relieved,” a smiling Molina said after the match. “We knew they’d bring their best game, and we expected to go five for sure.
“This was by far our best game of the season. Everything from our passes to our sets to our serves were all clicking. Our communication was flawless … we just competed as a team. We really played with passion tonight.”
With the win, the Wildcats (11-2) clinch an automatic berth to the Hawaii High School Athletic Association tournament and at least a share of the regular-season championship. Each team has one match remaining in the regular season, and both teams have byes into the Oct. 18 BIIF semifinals at Kamehameha; Konawaena will be the No. 1 seed, and Hawaii Prep is No. 2.
Ka Makani (10-3) were led by senior Tiana Reynolds with 10 kills and five blocks, and junior Gabbie Ewing, who added another 11 kills.
As expected, the two teams were fairly evenly matched to start. Ewing had five early kills and Hawaii Prep was tied with the Wildcats, 9-9, to start the first set. But Konawaena edged clear behind strong play by Molina, Makani Wall and McKenna Ventura.
The second set was even closer than the first. Konawaena generally led by a point or two throughout, but HPA managed to cut the deficit to 21-20 late. However, after an ace by Wall and a pair of perfectly placed kills by Molina, the Wildcats went on a 4-0 run to close out the set.
“Very tough match, but the girls were really pumped playing at home,” Konawaena head coach Ainsley Keawekane said. “They really wanted it. I told them to go out and play with a lot of self-confidence. They feed off each other and so that makes everyone confident.”