LIHUE — After battling all season long, the series between the Red Raider girls and the Warrior wahine reached a climax and a champion was crowned.
Kauai High School’s varsity girls volleyball team defeated Kapaa in straight sets at home in Monday’s second round playoff game, 25-16, 25-19 and 25-23, to win the Kauai Interscholastic Federation title.
“The girls did a really good job. Both teams played a really tough game,” said Red Raiders head coach Dorene Matias. “Our girls wanted it so badly. I told them, ‘Play it like it’s your last game.’ I couldn’t do any more, but they could. They played with all their heart.”
After winning the first two sets, the Red Raiders (12-2 KIF, 5-1 second round, 2-0 playoff) found themselves in a 12-8 deficit in the final game. The action continued back and forth until Kauai fought back to tie it, 22-22.
Freshman Tia Takasaki’s ace gave the Red Raiders the lead for good en route to completing the sweep.
“It was really close in the end. It could have gone either way,” Matias said. “I don’t want to take anything away from Kapaa. They’re tough … I was up against a really good coaching squad, too, and a really good team.”
Senior co-captain Harley Kaeo had six kills, including the game-winner in the second set, and two blocks.
“This was our last chance as seniors. We got our stuff together from our last loss and decided this was going to be it — might as well play our hearts out,” Kaeo said. “All the hard hours put in at practice, all the running that you hate but you got to do, it finally paid off.”
Junior Adrienne Graycochea and senior Jondee Rivera each added five kills.
“I feel that a weight has been lifted off our shoulders,” Graycochea said. “We talked more on the court, and we found the openings a lot better. It was just going great. It was going smooth for us.”
Though the Warriors (10-4 KIF, 5-1 second round, 0-2 playoff) couldn’t hang on to force another set, Kapaa head coach Evan Costa said it was a good season and there’s no reason for his players to get down on themselves.
“Kauai High came out, had a quick start, and never let up,” he said. “In the end, somebody got to win and somebody got to lose. But there’s bigger lessons in life … There is no group of Warriors that I’m more proud of.”
Senior Eryka Keoho had seven kills and junior Haaheo Mahinai had three kills and an ace in the Warriors effort.
“It’s been tough. It’s been really hard. It’s been a challenge … Unfortunately, we were the one’s who lost, but we gave it our all,” said Warriors senior Kamalani Hopkins, who had one kill. “We kept our heads high. That’s really all we wanted.”
“We always said volleyball is just a game … That’s just the mindset we had after the game,” added Kapaa senior libero Michele “Kawa” Danner. “Next year, I know they’re going to work hard to get it. So I’m excited to come back and watch.”
Kauai now looks forward to the New City Nissan Girls Volleyball Championships — Division II tournament, which begins Wednesday, Nov. 5. The Red Raiders’ first opponent has yet to be determined.
“Understanding the other team is critical, and being able to react to opponents correctly, we’re going to work on that,” Matias said about competing at states. “Make sure we tighten up our service and our passing.”