LIHUE — The Kapaa Warriors played spoiler Tuesday night at Kauai High School Gym, beating the Kauai High Red Raiders in five sets 25-16, 23-25, 21-25, 25-20, 15-9 to knock the Red Raiders out of KIF title contention.
Heading into Tuesday’s match with the Warriors, the Red Raiders sat in second place for the second-half of the season at 3-1. With a matchup with the second-half undefeated Waimea Menehune on Friday, the Red Raiders had an opportunity to not only get revenge for their Oct. 8 loss against the Menehune, but to force a second-half playoff for the title with a win against Waimea.
But first, the Red Raiders had to get past the Warriors.
And Kapaa wasn’t having it.
After stealing one set against Waimea last week, Warriors coach Evan Costa noted the transformation of his team and acknowledged that it carried into Tuesday’s match against Kauai.
“Finally they started to believe in themselves,” said Costa. “All the hard work and focus that they put in, it was all on them. They just let it happen.”
Following some Kauai pre-game festivities for their seniors Joni Hashizume and Gilian Gregorio, the teams took the court and traded points early.
Sitting at a 7-7 tie, the Warriors strung together four straight points behind a kill from Tori Daligcon-Pomaikai and three Red Raider errors to grab a 11-7 advantage.
Kapaa kept the pressure on, stretching their lead to 16-11, prompting a Kauai timeout.
The Warriors didn’t let up after the break, allowing the Red Raiders to only get as close as 18-14 before clamping down and securing the first set 25-16. Kapaa hitter Brainee Cabacungan was critical for Kapaa in the opening set, totaling five kills for her squad.
In the second set, it looked as if the Warriors would grab a 2-0 set lead.
All tied at 10, the Warriors rallied again, this time for five straight scores to make it a 15-10 advantage.
Instead of calling a timeout to try and settle his girls down again, head coach of the Red Raiders, Merrill Carvalho, let his girls play through it.
Behind two kills each from hitters Andrienne Graycochea and Jondee Rivera, a kill from Gregorio and six miscues from Kapaa, Kauai clawed back into it to tie it up at 21-21 all.
Kauai and Kapaa tied one more time at 22-22 before Harley Kaeo’s block on Cabacungan gave the Red Raiders a one-point lead. Libero Tahra Kaui recorded an ace and Graycochea put down a kill to seal set two for Kauai, 25-23.
The Red Raiders took back control in the third set.
After a kill from middle Kawehi Harris gave the Red Raiders a two point advantage at 12-10, Kauai turned it on.
The Red Raiders allowed the Warriors to score only two points in the game’s next nine plays, ballooning the score to 19-12 in their favor.
Kapaa didn’t quit right away and made one final push.
Down 22-16, the Warriors put the pressure on the Red Raiders. Kapaa earned four points behind two kills from Eryka Keoho, a kill from Daligcon-Pomaikai and a Red Raider hitting error to bring the Kauai advantage to 22-20.
But that was as close as Kapaa would get.
The Red Raiders earned their final three points on an Amanda Cadavona ace and a hitting and service error from Kapaa for a 25-21 set three victory.
With their backs against the wall, the Warriors responded in the fourth set.
Up 10-9, the Warriors grabbed six of the next nine points for a 16-12 lead, prompting a Kauai timeout.
The Red Raiders reestablished themselves out of the timeout, eventually tying it back up at 17-17.
Kauai tied it up at 18-18 again, but Kapaa grabbed the lead right back after a couple of errors by the Red Raiders.
The Warriors secured the fourth set on a kill and a block from Keoho for the 25-20 set four victory.
All tied up with two sets a piece, Kapaa and Kauai headed into the fifth and final set.
Although playing at home and on their senior night, it was the Warriors that had all the momentum in the fifth set, not the Red Raiders.
Kauai opened up set five with a service error and a hitting error to give the Warriors an early 2-0 lead.
The Warriors didn’t give up the lead the remainder of the set and capped set five 15-9 on a Keoho kill.
Coach for Kapaa, Heidi Aceret, noted a team bonding last week helped the team glue.
“The girls changed,” said Aceret. “They had a team bonding that really helped them to come closer, and by coming closer they’re able to support each other better. And so on the court … they were able to rally and become one instead of six.”
Aceret and Costa were excited with their team’s overall togetherness and plan to finish strong in their final game on Friday.
Carvalho thought his Red Raiders were flat from the get-go.
“We came out flat, we just had no energy tonight,” said Carvalho. “Just a lack of discipline on our part and Kapaa made the adjustments and we just couldn’t match their intensity.”
Even though Kauai’s season is over in terms of competing for the KIF title, Carvalho plans to have his girls ready for Waimea on Friday.
“We’re still going to Waimea to try our best to beat them,” said Carvalho. “We got two days of practice to get ready for Waimea, we’ll see what happens.”
Kapaa goes to 6-6 on the season while Kauai goes to 7-5.
Leading the attack for the Warriors was Keoho with 12 kills. Teammates Daligcon-Pomaikai and Cabacungan finished with 11 and nine kills, respectively. Warriors Madisson Hinkel, Kunani Tuttle and Mailekaluhea Tuttle finished with 21 kills split between the three.
Jondee Rivera led the way for the Red Raiders with 13 kills followed by Kaeo with nine kills. Graycochea and Harris finished with eight and seven kills, respectively.
• In JV action Tuesday night, the Red Raiders secured the victory over the Warriors 25-16, 25-12, 17-25.
In Waimea, it was the Menehune junior varsity and varsity girls that came away with the victory over the visiting Island School Voyagers.
The varsity Menehune swept the Voyagers 25-19, 25-9, 25-13.
Waimea improves to 11-2 on the season as the Voyagers drop to 0-11.
With a win and a Red Raider loss on Tuesday night, the Menehune secured the second-half title and the KIF title having won the first-half back on Sept. 27 against Kapaa.
KIF volleyball will be back in action for the final time this season Friday night, when the Menehune of Waimea host the Red Raiders of Kauai and Kapaa Warriors travel to Island School to take on the Voyagers. Both matches begin with JV at 5:30 p.m. with the varsity to follow no earlier than 6:30 p.m.
• Tyson Agbayani, sports writer, can be reached at 245-0437 or firstname.lastname@example.org.