WAIMEA – The Waimea Menehune boys varsity squad successfully defended its Kaua’i Interscholastic Federation volleyball title with a 15-10, 11-7 second round play-off match victory over the Kaua’i Red Raiders Wednesday night at the loud Clem Gomes Gymnasium.
The visitors jumped out to identical 3-0 leads in both sets but were unable to fend off the steady play of the newly crowned champions.
In the opening set, the Raiders held advantages of 3-0 and 6-2 as setter Aukai Dennis located hot hitter Kamu Kawaihalau with high lobs to the outside and middles Futi Tavana and Eric Fujikawa with quick strikes in the middle.
With Erwin Wright at the service line, Waimea stormed back on the all-around play of junior outside hitter John Karratti. A pair of Karratti kills-off-the-block and a solo block on the outside brought the Menehune within a point and a hitting error knotted things at 6-6.
Kaua’i again took a four point lead at 10-6 as Kawaihalau and Tavana found easy kills on serve overpasses and Tavana and Dennis combined on a block assist.
Talon Abat’s service ace just inside the end line cut into the difference and a crossing violation and two hitting errors tied the affair at 10-all.
A Raider time out preceded four sideout chances before another hitting miscue put Waimea up for the first time in the contest at 11-10. An illegal back row block and Casey Kaohelaulii smash bumped the score to 13-10 and a net violation call gave Waimea an aloha ball opportunity.
Karratti didnt disappoint as the Raiders were unable to pick up his dink kill to close out the opener.
Kaua’i jumped out 3-0 in the second set on a Kawaihalau smash and a pair of hitting errors to prompt an early time out by Menehune head coach Bobby Kamakele.
“When I called that time out and the boys came out,” Kamakele would later recall, “I put my hands on their shoulders and could feel just how tense they were. I reminded them that they just have to relax and we’d be able to play our game.”
The Menehune regrouped to tie the contest at 3-3 but a Fujikawa-Kelly Foster block assist helped the Raiders reclaim the lead. Kills by Fujikawa and Kawaihalau bumped the advantage to 6-3 before another Karratti surge helped stake Waimea to a 7-0 run and a 10-6 lead of their own with 53 seconds left on the game clock.
A blocking error gave the Raiders their final tally but Kaohelaulii’s quick smash through the double block gave serve back to the Menehune.
A hitting error failed wide to give Waimea an 11-7 difference and the clock expired on the subsequent sideout to end the noisy affair.
The Menehune were led by the setting tandem of Wright and Abat (14 and 9 assists respectively) and the high flying smashes of Karratti (match high 9 kills, 1 service ace, solo block, 1 dig). Co-captains Desmond Rodrigues and Josh Vinzant (service ace) combined for 7 kills and 13 digs while Kaohelaulii chipped in with 4 kills and a solo block. Defensive specialist Steven Fountain picked up 5 digs and middle Jeremy McDown also put away a pair of kills.
Kaua’i was paced by the unselfish offensive distribution of Dennis (16 assists, 2 kills, 1 block assist, 3 digs) and pinpoint hitting of Tavana (team-high 6 kills, 1 block assist), Kawaihalau (5 kills, 7 digs), and Fujikawa (5 kills, 7 digs). Jonathan Arakaki collected a kill and 6 digs while defensive specialist Warren Lee picked up 3 digs.
The Menehune improved to 8-1 overall and earned the lone league bid to next weeks HHSAA boys state championships (November 13-16) in Hilo while Kaua’i closed out its season with a 4-5 record (3-2 second round).
The second round playoff between the Kauai-Waimea girls varsity squads has been moved up to 6 p.m. tonight at the Kauai High gymnasium in order to accommodate homecoming preparations.
KIF Volleyball Skinny
KIF Boy’s Second Round Playoff
– Waimea defeats Kaua’i 15-10, 11-7
Waimea wins KIF title
KIF Girl’s Second Round Playoff
– Tonight, 6 p.m., Kaua’i High gym
Karratti leads, Waimea repeats