LIHU‘E — Up two sets to one with the score tied 23-23 in the fourth set, Waimea boys volleyball coach Enoka Karratti knew the next point was crucial.
The Menehune had taken the first two sets, and had chances to sweep the match in the third. Now, with the Red Raiders pressuring to force a fifth set, Karratti needed someone to make a play.
Enter senior Keoni Ana.
After a long rally, Ana rocketed a ball from the left side of the net, just inside the deep right corner of the Red Raider zone to give the Menehune the lead. The Menehune rallied to win the next point, clinching a 25-11, 25-20, 24-26, 25-23 win over the previously unbeaten Red Raiders, Friday night at Kaua‘i High School.
Karratti said the Menehune struggled to capitalize on game changing chances in the two teams’ first meeting. This time, with the Red Raiders threatening to extend the match, Karratti said it was imperative for Menehune to stymie the effort.
“It was very important for us to close it in the fourth set,” Karratti said. “Last game we couldn’t finish when we had the chances. This was huge for us mentally to know we can finish. We were on the verge of winning and we followed through.”
The Menehune came out more aggressive than they have all season. Waimea won eight of the first 10 points and used a well-balanced attack to cruise to the first-set win.
The second set saw the Raiders regroup, jumping out to a 7-4 lead. But following a time-out, the Menehune went on a 8-0 run to take control of the set. Senior Kaili Schumacher-Lagundino had six of his game-high 17 kills in the set.
The Red Raiders countered in the third set. The two teams fought to a 24-24 tie before the Raiders closed out the final two points to the roars of the packed crowd.
The fourth set began like the third, with both teams playing cat-and-mouse until the Menehune took a 23-22 lead.
The Raiders tied the score at 23-23 with the longest rally of the match, but with the pressure on the Menehune to close, Karratti said Ana was the perfect man for the job.
“He so nonchalant. He’s always smiling out there,” Karratti said. “It’s like he’s feeding off of that pressure. We’re glad to have him.”
Karratti said the Waimea fans, who traveled in droves to the Kaua‘i High School Gym Friday night, gave the Menehune an extra edge.
The Waimea faithful’s numbers and loud cheers made it feel like a home match, Karratti said.
“In that last set, when you could see how the crowd in the stands was reacting, we knew the time was right now. Right here,” he said.
For the Red Raiders, Donavon Harrison led the team with 10 kills.
At Kapa‘a High School, the Kapa‘a Warriors edged the Island School Voyagers in four sets, 25-19, 26-28, 25-21, 25-11.