Menehune get defensive

KAPA’A – You could feel it in the air – the strong indelible electrical charge that ran through every player and fan lucky enough to be in attendance at the Kapa’a-Waimea varsity volleyball matches at the Bernice Hundley Gymnasium Wednesday night.

You could feel the intense pride in the deafening eruption of applause at the emergence of both squads from their respective locker rooms and in every passionate school cheer that resonated through the noisy crowd.

The tenacious three set girls match was as good as it gets in KIF play – a testament to the skill and perseverance of the victorious Menehune as well as the gritty determination and fiery play of the no-quit Warrior squad but was simply the appetizing precursor for the final thrilling match of the night.

Waimea 15-7, 14-16, 15-11

A pair of Josh Vinzant kills and a Jeremy McDown solo block helped quickly lift the Menehune to a 5-1 advantage in the opening game but the Warriors, playing in their final home contest of the season, stormed back on a 5-0 run which culminated on Cale Forsen’s curling service ace to an open middle.

Kapa’a hitting and passing errors regained the lead for the visitors and the looming net presence of the 6-5″ McDown pushed the lead to 10-6.

Both squads traded points before a 4-0 Waimea closing run ended the opener on a Desmond Rodrigues hard angled kill to the deep corner.

Josh Cabral, recently promoted from the junior varsity squad, entered the second set (to raucous fan approval) with his team down 4-2 and quickly provided an elative spark to help turn the deficit into an eventual 13-7 Menehune lead.

Seven Ricky Rodrick kills, a trio of deft setting overpasses by Warrior setter Kyle Mahoney, and the sharp serves of Kaina Kaauwai helped bring the Warriors within striking distance. The Menehune, however, were a swing away from a two set victory up 14-12, but a crossing violation returned serve to Kapa’a.

Both teams traded emotional sideouts before hitting and passing errors knotted the set at 14-14.

As the drawn out game forced the two coaching staffs to manage their eighteen allowed substitutions tighter than a winning poker hand, Warrior defensive specialist Koa Yama found himself playing at the net for the first time this season. The 5-5″ juniors solo block on the right side boosted the east-siders to a 15-14 edge and prompted a huge demonstrative lift. A crossing violation subsequently closed out the set to square the match at a set apiece.

“I thought we were going to get that emotional lift when we inserted Josh (Cabral) in the second game,” an emotionally drained Menehune head coach Bobby Kamakele said, “which we did, but we ended up losing.”

Waimea broke a 6-6 deadlock in the deciding game with a 6-0 run before the resurgent Warriors chipped the lead to 12-11 on a Mahoney-Kaauwai back set slam.

An unforced hitting error put the west-siders up by a pair and a Kapaa passing miscue bumped the lead to 14-11. An aloha ball McDown-Vinzant block assist rejected a final Warrior comeback bid to end the state-tournament-caliber match.

“We passed a little bit better in the final set but they were playing hard and with a lot of heart,” Kamakele added, “It’s great that we’re finished with our match and can now sit back to watch Kapa’a and Kaua’i play.”

Waimea was boosted by the setting tandem of Talon Abat (29 assists) and Erwin Wright (10 assists) and the crushing swings of Casey Kaohelaulii (12 kills) and Vinzant (11 kills). Rodrigues played a well-rounded game (8 kills, solo block, 4 block assists, 12 digs), defensive specialist Steven Fountain dug up 10 kill attempts, and outside hitter John Karratti put down 4 hard kills. The defensive front of the Menehune proved to be the final catalyst in the win with 4 solo blocks and 20 block assists (led by McDown (2 solos, 4 assists) and Kaohelaulii (6 assists).

Mahoney paced the Warrior upset bid with a match-high 33 well-distributed assists, 5 kills and 7 digs. Kapaas offensive firepower was led by Rodrick (match-high tying 12 kills), Forsen (10 kills), Kaauwai (6 kills), Billy Toy (5 kills), and Bryan Domingo (4 kills). Toy also stood out at the net with a solo block and a pair of block assists. Yama, Domingo and Forsen each collected 6 dig saves to head the defensive effort.

The win clinched at least a tie for the KIF second round title for the Menehune (7-1 overall, 3-1 second round) and ended their KIF regular season of play. Kapa’a (1-6, 0-3) finishes their season on the road Saturday against the Red Raiders (3-4, 2-1) with boys junior varsity play scheduled for 3 p.m. Raider victories in boys or girls varsity play would force a Waimea-Kaua’i second round playoff while a loss would end any title hopes for the Lihue squads.

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