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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, December 18, 2001

All-state volleyball teams
Iolani's Kamana'o runs away with Player of the Year honor

5-11 junior
Player of the Year
5-10 senior
5-9 freshman
5-10 senior
St. Joseph
5-10 sophomore
6-2 junior
5-5 senior
Coach of the Year

By Dennis Anderson
Advertiser Staff Writer

Kanoe Kamana'o has been recognized for several years in the volleyball community as one of Hawai'i's best young players. She was selected by national team coaches to represent the United States in international tournaments the past two summers.

This fall she became known to the wider Hawai'i community as well, leading Iolani's girls to their first unbeaten season and first state high school championship.

Today, Kamana'o, a junior, attains the zenith of her honors so far. She was selected almost unanimously as Hawai'i high school girls Player of the Year.

A statewide panel of 15 coaches and referees gave Kamana'o all but one vote as Player of the Year and all 15 as the best setter in the state.

Veteran Iolani coach Ann Kang, whose team went 20-0, was chosen Coach of the Year, also by a wide margin.

Two of Kamana'o's teammates joined her on the first team (senior hitter La'akea Campbell and senior defensive specialist Kristin Kutara).

The panel's other first-team selections were Punahou senior hitter Michelle Look, Punahou freshman hitter Aneli Otineru, St. Joseph of Hilo sophomore hitter Jazmin Paakaula and 6-foot-2 Hilo High junior blocker Sarah Mason.

Kang said of Kamana'o: "She sets, hits, serves and plays solid defense and she comes through in crucial times, like the state finals. What more could you ask for?"

Iolani lost the first game of the state final to defending champion Punahou and was down 7-2 in the third before Kamana'o rallied the Raiders with her serving and setting. She had 14 kills in the match.

Punahou coach John McDermott said Kamana'o "kept her team mentally tough and confident. She was all-round awesome; no weaknesses."

Hilo coach Carla Carpenter-Kabalis noted that Kamana'o was "very calm and focused in tough situations," using her "excellent court awareness and great ball control."

Kang added, "She will find a way to make things happen, and she does an excellent job of holding things together and making the other players trust in themselves."

Kang started the girls volleyball program at Iolani in 1979 and has been the Raiders' only head varsity coach.

"She made the right moves at key times," McDermott said.

Kang's assistants, Chris Blake and Rona Kekauoha, also were praised by panel members. Blake helped Kamehameha win five state titles and a national rankings championship under head coach Dan Kitashima before Kitashima retired two years ago.

ILH chief referee Francis Aiu said Kang "has had a great influence on the lives of the girls, both on and off the court. Her ability to communicate with the girls and get them to play through adversity has been a tremendous boon to her team."

Iolani's Campbell was the leading vote-getter after Kamana'o.

"She was our go-to player all year and usually led us in kills," Kang said.

Otineru, who was third in voting, has room for improvement Punahou coach McDermott said, "But what she does as a freshman is mind-boggling. She's one of the most advanced freshmen, girls or boys, I have ever seen. She knows the game, she's been playing for a long time, she's smart, but also physical."

Otineru averaged 4.4 kills and 3.26 digs per game and hit .360.

Look, second-team all-state in 1999 and first-team last year, averaged 4.45 kills and 3.26 digs and served 37 aces in 18 matches as Punahou went 15-3. Look has signed with Loyola Marymount.

"She's been one of our best players all four years on the varsity," McDermott said. "She's got a lot of spirit, athletic ability and she's the leader of our team."

Paakaula helped tiny St. Joseph take third place in the state.

The importance of reaching the final two days at states, the only time that some voters may see you play, was underlined in the case of Liz Narkon. She made last year's all-state team after leading St. Francis to second place and has already signed with Division I Northern Arizona. But this year, St. Francis did not make it to states; Narkon got much less exposure and received honorable mention.

Punahou junior Puna Richardson, selected last year when coaches picked a 12-player first team, got the most votes on the second team this time. She hit .377, served 30 aces and averaged 1.1 blocks per game.

Setter Nanea Holmes of La Pietra made second team although her team didn't reach states. She has signed with Alabama-Birmingham.

Only setters and defensive specialists were selected at specific positions. Hitters and blockers were chosen as generic "field players."