LIHUE — The Kauai High School Red Raiders knew they had to win Friday night if they wanted play for the season’s first half title next week. They showed it, beating the Menehune of Waimea High in straight sets 26-24, 25-20, 25-16 at Kauai High School Gym.
Losing to the Kapaa Warriors on Tuesday, head coach of the Red Raiders, Merrill Carvalho, used Wednesday and Thursday to get his team refocused for Friday’s matchup with the Menehune.
“Our focus over the last two days was discipline,” said Carvalho. “From offense to defense to our transition, we had to be disciplined tonight to have a shot at beating Waimea.”
And discipline was exactly what the Red Raiders needed in the first set.
After a seesaw battle early in the opening match of the game, the Red Raiders pulled ahead to grab a 13-6 lead behind a handful of kills from Adrienne Graycochea, Jondee Rivera and Gilian Gregorio.
But just like Tuesday’s match against Kapaa, Kauai’s lead slowly diminished.
Down 18-11, the Menehune charged back to tie things up at 19-19 with two kills from Kawena Warren and Talia Young, a block each from Mariyah Oliver and Warren, and four Red Raider errors.
Waimea continued its push to secure set one and nearly did it as they held a 24-21 lead.
But with only one point to spare, the Red Raiders rallied. Sparked by a big block from Harley Kaeo and kill from Kawehi Harris, Kauai scored five straight points to steal set one from the Menehune, 26-24.
Riding momentum from their win in the set before, the Red Raiders jumped out to another early lead at 6-3.
Refocused and disciplined, the Red Raiders stretched their advantage to seven points at 20-13. While the Menehune didn’t lay down, scoring seven points in the second set’s following eight possessions, they weren’t able to catch Kauai either.
At 21-20, the Red Raiders scored four straight points to secure the second set and grab a 2-0 game lead.
In the third set, Kauai continued to give the Menehune fits.
Aside from a tie at 5-5, the game’s third set wasn’t close.
Kauai scored five straight points to break the 5-5 tie behind three aces from Graycochea, a kill from Rivera and an error from Waimea.
The Menehune were unable to get themselves into a rhythm and the closest they got to the catching the Red Raiders was a four point deficit at 19-15.
Kauai took the third set 25-16 to cap off the sweep against the Menehune.
Waimea head coach, Chad Delanoza, saw numerous reasons to why his team struggled on Friday.
“Just a lot of team dynamics,” said Delanoza. “Majority of it was just our ability not to finish the matches, getting the unforced errors, we had a lot of unforced errors tonight. We didn’t take care of the ball as well as I hoped to.”
Delanoza credited Kauai for what they were able to do on defense and praised them for being prepared.
Kauai’s Carvalho was satisfied with his girls’ effort and thought his team’s hitting and blocking was the X-factor in Friday night’s game.
Leading the Red Raiders hitting attack was Kaeo with eight kills followed by Rivera with seven and Graycochea with five.
Waimea’s Oliver was the leading attacker for the game with 10 kills. Warren finished with nine kills while teammate Lei Alejandro chipped in with six for the Menehune.
Kauai finished with six total blocks, getting four from Gregorio and two from Kaeo.
• In JV action, Kauai took the win, securing two out of three sets against Waimea 26-24, 25-20, 23-25.
At Kapaa High School, the Warriors were able to keep their end of the bargain to force a playoff, sweeping the Island School Voyagers 25-2, 25-23, 28-26.
In JV action between the Warriors and Voyagers, Kapaa was also able to blank Island School 25-9, 25-5, 25-11.
With the Kauai Red Raiders and Kapaa Warriors securing wins on Friday night, there is three-way tie for first place in the KIF with the Menehune, Warriors and Red Raiders all having a record of 4-2.
To decide the season’s first half winner, there will be a three-team playoff next week beginning with the Menehune of Waimea traveling to Kauai High to take on the Red Raiders on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.
The Warriors, who received a first game bye due to a odd-man-out coin flip scenario, will play the winner at the winning team’s high school Friday at 6:30 p.m. to decide the season’s first half champion.
• Tyson Agbayani, sports writer, can be reached at 245-0437 or firstname.lastname@example.org.