Monday | December 11, 2017
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BIIF Division II volleyball championship: Younger sisters put their touch on Konawaena dynasty

The Konawaena girls volleyball dynasty was built around the Molina and Ventura sisters, especially the older ones — Chanelle and Celena Jane Molina, and McKenna Ventura.

Cherilyn Molina and McKayla Ventura are the youngest and the last of the sibling dynamic. But they’ve got something all their own: a BIIF title without the help of the sisters.

The Wildcats beat Hawaii Prep 21-25, 25-11, 25-23, 25-27, 15-11 for the BIIF Division II championship in a back-and-forth thriller on Thursday at the Waiakea’ gym, securing their fourth straight title.

The HHSAA Division II tournament runs Wednesday, Oct. 25 to Saturday, Oct. 28 on Oahu.

On the Big Island, it’s the end of an era for Molina and Ventura, who were part of the sibling powerhouse. With older sisters Chanelle and Celena Jane Molina, and McKenna Ventura, the Wildcats won three BIIF titles and two state crowns. Actually, better make that four league championships.

They finally secured a BIIF championship all on their own as their sisters are playing in college: Chanelle and Celena Jane Molina both in basketball at Washington State and McKenna Ventura plays volleyball at Pacific Lutheran.

“It’s amazing,” McKayla Ventura said.

Even though they’re longtime friends, they started to talk like sisters.

“We had to step up,” Cherilyn Ventura said.

“And lead the team,” Molina added.

They’re both 5 feet 7 but kept finding ways to hit balls around, over and off the taller Ka Makani block.

Molina cranked 25 kills, and her senior teammate and fellow outside hitter Ventura added 16 kills while Maile Grace had 12 kills for Konawaena (9-9), which hit .114.

Madi Lee knocked down 22 kills, Claire Henderson had 12, and Gemma Palleschi 11 kills for HPA (9-9), which had a .099 hitting percentage.

It was mostly a night of defense. The Wildcats had more blocks, 10-5, but HPA had more digs, 136-122, an absolutely incredible stat.

Molina had 39 digs, Ventura 29 digs, libero Kawehi Lunwon-Spinoza added 21 digs, and setter Anaselita Taetuna had 17 digs.

Julia Perry picked up 36 digs for HPA, Emma Saito 31 digs, and Palleschi had 29 digs.

It was the third meeting between the two. In the regular season, HPA swept Konawaena in three sets at home when the Wildcats were without Molina, who was on a visit to Washington State. In the rematch, the Wildcats outlasted Ka Makani in five sets at home.

So, the championship figured to go five, again. And that old adage is true: save the best of last. The rubber match had entertaining long rallies that pumped up the enthusiasm in the Warriors Gym.

The fifth set was tied six times. Konawaena’s Kehau Faleofa served two straight aces to give her team a surge of momentum and a 9-6 lead. Later, Grace and Kaliko Pajimola combined on a block for a 12-9 edge, and Taetuna served another ace, the third of the set.

On match point, Ventura hit a back-row sinker against a Ka Makani defense that scouted the Wildcats well and set up their perimeter defense to where most balls were hit.

In Game 1, HPA played drop-back defense, relying on one blocker most times and putting a blanket in the back court. The Wildcats made it too easy with a whopping 14 unforced errors.

Ka Makani had just six giveaway points and only had eight kills, including five by Lee. Ventura and Molina blasted six and five kills, respectively, but it wasn’t enough to compensate for all the donated free points.

In Game 2, the Wildcats stopped beating themselves; they had only four unforced errors. HPA had 11 giveaway points.

Even better for the ‘Cats, they started to get easy points, the best way to outscore the opponent. Konawaena had three aces and three blocks.

In Game 3, Grace accounted for five of Konawaena’s last five points, including an ace on set point.

The Wildcats somehow prevailed 25-23 despite 13 giveaway points. HPA had just four unforced errors.

Again, Molina and Ventura provided the firepower with eight and five kills, respectively, displaying their toolbox of weapons from cross-court to roll shots.

In the fourth set, HPA found more big plays down the stretch, and Konawaena couldn’t get out of its way with a few costly mistakes.

Grace tied it 24-24, but the Wildcats had a service error, draining their energy for a bit. Then Ventura hit a back-row sinker to tie it again for a recharge.

But Henderson was clutch with consecutive kills to force a fifth set in a marathon that will be remembered for unbelievable defense and, for two Wildcat sisters, the last Molina-Ventura BIIF title.

Third place

• Kohala def. Honokaa 25-6, 25-10, 25-15: The Cowgirls dominated with their serves, blasting 19 aces to reach the state tournament for the second straight year after last appearing in 1999. The Dragons had zero aces.

Kiana Kauka fired seven aces, Zaz Matsu six, Kaila Pasco two, and Shania Fuentes, CJ Agbayani, Cheylin Imai, and Mikayla Kekoa had one each for Kohala (14-6).

Fuentes slammed 10 kills, Imai and Kekoa eight each, and Kauka had four kills.

Esther Benanua, Pulelehua Lindsey, and Chevy Martinez had two kills each to lead the Dragons (9-11), who lose those senior starters as well as setter Karly Requelman.

It was a long day for the Cowgirls, who left for Hilo at 10:30 a.m. because there wasn’t a later bus departure. When they got to the Warriors Gym at 1 p.m., the Dragons arrived five minutes later.

In Game 1, Kauka set the tone when she ripped six aces during a 13-0 run that put the Cowgirls ahead 15-2. The scoring spree ended on a Kohala hitting error.

In Game 2, Matsu landed three aces during a 12-0 march that pushed Kohala to a 20-7 cushion. Fuentes pounded seven kills during the set.

The third set also went the way of the Cowgirls, who closed with a seven-point run. Pasco nailed two aces during that scoring spurt.

 

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