Bringing Home Bronze
Molokai Volleyball finishes third in state tournament.
By Dan Murphy
The Molokai girls’ volleyball team completed its season last weekend with the best finish in the program’s history. The Farmers came from behind to beat Hilo High (25-27, 25-16, 15-5) at the Stan Sheriff Center on Oahu Saturday night to secure third place in Hawaii’s Division II.
“We were excited with the finish,” said Head Coach Matt Helm. “But, I think a lot of people had higher expectation for us and we did too.”
Molokai entered the tournament as the second-ranked team in the state and hoped to contend for their first ever championship in volleyball, but ran into a big speed bump in the semifinal round. They lost to Honolulu’s Word of Life Christian Academy (25-22, 26-24, 25-21) in three straight sets.
The Firebrands, playing on their home island upset No. 3-ranked Kaiser in the quarterfinals to reach the Molokai match-up. They eventually lost to two-time defending champion Hawaii Baptist High in the championship match.
Helm said that a lack of experience may have hurt the Farmers.
“I don’t think it was about wanting it more. [Word of Life] just executed better at crucial points,” he said. “Most of the girls we were playing against play volleyball all year long, but we’re getting there.”
The Oahu league schools also had the advantage of playing in a post-season conference tournament. Helm said because Molokai and the other Maui Interscholastic League teams had no end-of-the-season tournament, they were not used to the “do or die” atmosphere at the states.
The Farmers started the tournament with the same dominance they displayed throughout the regular season. They jumped out of the gates with a 25-14 win over University High in their opening match last Thursday afternoon. The pace slowed after a loss in the second set, but Molokai held on to win (25-14, 16-25, 25-22, 25-16).
Junior Kalei Adolpho had 13 kills to lead all scorers in the game. She was named to the All-Tournament team for her solid play all weekend.
However, Adolpho wasn’t alone,a slew of other Farmers had big games against University. Senior Danna-Lynn Hooper-Juario and junior Kailana Ritte-Camara each pitched in with 10 kills and sophomore Kalei Vaivai had nine.
“Vaivai had a good weekend. She’s ones of our key passers, she served well and she attacks. But, really everyone just played their roles well,” Helm said.
After losing to Word of Life, the team took a night to recover before returning to win the third-place match against Hilo.
Adolpho once again led the team with nine kills and three blocks. Vaivai and Hooper-Juario also added eight kills each.
“They were feeling pretty bad and I told them they could feel however they wanted,” Helm said. “I just reminded them that when they woke up the next day it was a new day and we could still achieve our goal.”
They did. During the preseason, the players decided their goals for the year were to finish the regular season undefeated and finish in the top three in the state. The Farmers finished 17-1 and, according to Helm, the third-place finish was the best in Molokai volleyball history. Last year’s team finished in fourth place overall in the state tournament.
The Farmers will return with eight of their 12 players – including four starters – next season. Helm said he and the team both have a lot of work to do in the offseason, but he hopes that Molokai will remain on top of the MIL and the state.