LIHU‘E — For two sets, the Kaua‘i Red Raiders and Waimea Menehune traded blows like two prize fighters.
A few upper-cuts in the third set put one of the teams on the ropes.
After splitting the first two sets, the Menehune used an 8-0 run in the third and kept the momentum going in the fourth to beat the Red Raiders 25-17, 19-25, 25-15, 25-20 Saturday in a one-game Round 1 playoff at Kaua‘i High School.
The first two sets gave the appearance that the match would go five sets, but in the third set the Menehune asserted themselves. Waimea opened an 11-5 lead early on, and when the Red Raiders tried to close the gap by bringing the score to 14-9, the Menehune went for the knockout by rattling off eight consecutive points. The rally was highlighted when a Mark Kanahele spike ricocheted off a Red Raider player and into the crowd.
“That’s the most emotion I’ve ever seen out of him,” Waimea head coach Enoka Karratti said. “It was fun to see.”
The momentum of the third set carried over to the fourth for Waimea, with the Menehune jumping out to a 5-1 lead.
The Raiders battled back to make the set interesting, but the Menehune secured the Round 1 title when Koa Luce-Yamamoto slammed match-ball into the Raider side for the kill.
The Menehune have beaten the Raiders twice, with both wins coming on the road. Karratti said it was a crucial win, especially considering that Round 2 kicks off on Tuesday featuring the same teams and location.
“This was very big for us,” he said. “It would have been a long trip back if we lost. We’ll sleep very well tonight.”
The Red Raiders played well in the first two sets, but head coach Merrill Carvalho said that in the last two sets his team made too many mistakes.
“It was a combination of us making errors and them capitalizing on them,” Carvalho said. “We played undisciplined and unfocused.”
The Red Raider are a team that starts slow, Carvalho said, which causes problems because the Menehune are a team that feeds off of momentum.
“It just puts us behind and we have to play catch up,” he said.
Carvalho said it was a huge win for the Menehune. He said the Raiders have struggled with the mental aspect of the game this season, and with the Waimea win it may give the Menehune a mental edge heading into the second round.
“We start with a clean slate,” he said, “But they have a psychological advantage. They came into our home twice and beat us twice.”
The Red Raiders and Menehune will begin Round 2 at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Kaua‘i High School.