LIHU‘E — In the first set, the Kaua‘i Red Raiders showed the potential of a team to beat. In the second, they showed the weakness of a young team adjusting to the roll of a front-runner.
For head coach Merrill Carvalho, it was the third and fourth sets that showed him his team can work out its problems in time to net a victory.
After a clean first set, followed by a unstable second, the Red Raiders claimed sets three and four away from a scrappy Kapa‘a Warriors to remain unbeaten in KIF boys volleyball play with a 25-19, 23-25, 25-16, 26-24 win Tuesday night at the Kaua‘i High School gym.
Carvalho said he saw two Red Raider teams Tuesday night. The first team was the one that is unrivaled in skill and potential. The other was the more head-scratching one.
“Our team has the ability to give away free points,” Carvalho said. “It’s frustrating to get a lead and then give away two, three, four points at a time.”
The Red Raiders began the game as planned, with a relatively unchallenged first set win. But the Warriors, who suffered a three-set sweep at the hand of Waimea last week, charged in the second set, rattling off handfuls of points in a row — many coming as unforced Red Raider errors.
The Warriors kept the ball in play and minimized their own miscues, often using junior Jeremiah Obrero to spike it into the Kaua‘i zone.
Warrior coach Matt Gonsalves said Obrero, who led the team with seven kills, excels at leading the Warrior attack, but the junior is learning to adjust to his new starring role.
“He’s our go-to guy,” Gonsalves said of Obrero. “He had some very bright spots, but at times showed the consistency of a guy playing in his third varsity game.”
The Red Raiders rebounded in the third set, mainly relying on their own go-to guy, senior Donovan Harrison.
Harrison is renowned for his powerful spikes, but coach Gonsalves said the Kaua‘i senior hurt the Warriors more from the back than the front.
“He was player of the year last year and we have a hard time stopping him up front,” Gonsalves said. “But he killed us on the serves tonight.”
Carvalho said most teams key in on Harrison and make it a focal point of blocking him. The Red Raiders spread the ball around throughout the game — getting big kills from Joseph Machado and Archie Vallantini — until it was time for Harrison to strike.
In the first two sets, Harrison had a pedestrian two kills. In sets three and four, the senior exploded for nine.
“We try to mix it up until it becomes a better situation,” Carvalho said. “Then we go back to him.”
For the Warriors, although the loss dropped them to 1-2 on the season, Gonsalves said there was a lot to like from his team’s effort. He said the team was embarrassed after last Friday’s loss at the hands of the Menehune and wanted to make a statement against the Red Raiders.
“It was hard to sleep wondering if every night was going to be like this,” Gonsalves said of dealing with the Waimea loss. “The boys responded. We were good and pesky. Scrappy.”
Against a much different Kapa‘a team than Waimea saw on Friday, Carvalho said the Red Raiders showed, at times, glimpses of the team they can become. The coach said there is still a lot of time left in the season to work the kinks out, and hopefully blossom into the team he knows he has.
“We’re not even close to our full potential yet,” Carvalho said. “We’re a young team and we still have a lot to work on.”
At Island School, the Waimea Menehune continued their hot streak with a three-set sweep of the Voyagers, 25-14, 25-9, 25-17.
In JV action at Kaua‘i High School, the Red Raiders took two of three sets from the Warriors, 25-21, 25-14, 18-25.