HILO – Despite a height advantage at the net and tough season-long competition, the KIF champ Menehune fell to the Waiakea Warriors 13-15, 12-15 Wednesday in their opening game of the 2002 HHSAA Nissan Hawaii Boys Volleyball State Championships at the Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium in Hilo.
In front of the largely partisan hometown crowd of their opponent, the Menehune failed to click on all offensive cylinders, but their no-quit attitude won over the grudging respect of their statewide peers with a remarkable rally that fell just short.
The Hilo fans immediately made their presence known as the Warriors jumped out to a 13-3 opening set advantage on a pair of Joey Poai service aces, a slew of hitting and passing errors by the visitors from the Garden Island, and a quick striking offense.
A Waiakea passing error cut the lead to 13-4 and initiated a Menehune comeback that later had the noisy Civic Auditorium crowd wringing their hands. Joshua Vinzant and Jeremy McDown sandwiched a block assist between Warrior setting and hitting mistakes to trim the difference to six points. A double contact violation was quickly followed by a Desmond Rodrigues-Talon Abat rejection to pull within 13-9.
Kevin Takayama’s service ace gave the hosts their first aloha ball opportunity but an Erwin Wright-to-Rodrigues quick kill connection in the middle returned serve to Waimea.
Rodrigues soared to reject a Warrior dump try in the middle and McDown followed with a scoring tip to bring the Kauai representatives to 14-11. A subsequent Casey Kaohelaulii smash-off-the-block cut the deficit to a two-point margin and Waiakea head coach Emil Osorio was forced to take a time out.
Both squads missed side-out chances before Vinzant and McDown combined on their second block assist to bring Waimea within 14-13 but an unforced back-row hitting error cut short a long rally in the Warriors favor.
A final blocking error ended the frantic Menehune comeback a couple of points short.
Waimea jumped out 4-1 in the second game on the streaky swings of junior outside Jon Karratti, only to endure a 4-0 Waiakea run on continued Menehune hitting and passing errors.
Both teams traded leads as front row play intensified and the KIF reps eventually jumped ahead 10-7 on Vinzant’s hard drive off a Warrior back row defender.
Though Waiakea closed within 10-9, the Menehune again took a three-point lead as a Warrior swing failed wide and Norman Vea connected on a rare front row kill chance. It would soon prove, however, to be the final tally in the Waimea offense.
A trio of Tom Dement scoring kills helped reclaim the lead for the Hilo squad at 13-12 and successive Menehune spike attempts sailed beyond the end line to close out the match and bump Waimea from championship play.
Kaohelaulii led the Menehune with 8 put-aways while teammates Rodrigues (match-high 7 digs) and Karratti pounded down 7 kills each. McDown played aggressively in the middle with 6 kills and 3 block assists. Vinzant contributed 5 digs and 3 kills while Wright and Abat (3 kills, 2 digs) combined for 29 assists. Steven Fountain Jr. (4 digs) and Norman Vea Jr. (3 dig saves) picked up the pace defensively.
Four service errors and 17 hitting miscues limited Waimea’s scoring opportunities.
The Menehune hope to rebound in a 2 p.m. consolation (elimination) match today against the OIA #3 representative Campbell Sabers.
Campbell fell in straight sets to the defending state champion Iolani Raiders in Wednesday’s opening contest.