Warriors unbeaten

KAPAA — The Warrior boys went through the regular season without a loss en route to claiming the league crown.

Kapaa High School’s varsity boys volleyball team defeated Waimea in straight sets at home to win season’s second round and the Kauai Interscholastic Federation championship.

“It feels great. It’s always good to come out on top, and to come out with an unblemished record,” said Kapaa head coach Kapule Kaona. “I just contribute that to the hard work of the boys and the coaching staff we have this year. They were very positive. I had a good support group.

“It was definitely a team win, a school win and community win,” Kaona continued. “To have the support that we had tonight, it was just amazing to have the crowd behind you cheering and chanting. It always feels good when you have that support.”

Kapaa (12-0 KIF, 6-0 2nd round) won those three sets — 25-17, 25-20 and 25-21. The third set was capped off with a match-winning kill by senior outside hitter Max Nice.

“That, to me, it’s No. 1. It’s going to be stored in my memory forever,” Nice said of that kill. “It just felt like a load off pressure off our shoulders. I could feel the team like, ‘We can take a deep breath and relax. We’re going (to states).’”

Waimea (8-4 KIF, 4-2 2nd round) held a lead for the first half of the last frame.

Kapaa worked out of that deficit to even the score at 15 apiece, and then took the lead off a Menehune error. The Warriors would keep the lead to the end to clinch the league title.

“That’s where heart comes into play, and persevering when you have the opportunities,” said Waimea head coach Alton Shimatsu about losing the lead. “I’m happy we got a lot of guys coming back next year — a lot of freshmen and sophomores on my team. It’s good to play in games like this. You can only grow from experiences like this.”

Shimatsu added that Kapaa is deserving of the KIF title.

“We knew Kapaa was going to be tough. Honestly, they’re a good candidate for the state championship,” he said. “They’re a good team all-around, and I have nothing bad to say. Our boys pushed as hard as they could, but there can only be one winner.”

Nice had 11 kills, including set-winners from the first and third sets, and five digs for Kapaa. Junior setter Jayson Hawthorne had 31 assists and a block. Junior outside hitter Carson Shmick had eight kills, four digs and a block. Junior middle Saxsen Shiira had 10 kills. Freshman libero Pomai Rabago-Kaiwi had five digs.

Menehune junior setter Carl Mecham had 11 kills and 10 assists for Waimea. Senior outside hitter Briggs Agu had seven kills, three digs and an ace. Sophomore middle blocker Jacob Delos Reyes had seven digs, a kill and a block. Freshman setter Shayne Simbre-Medeiros had eight assists. Junior defensive specialist Rendel Lim had five digs.

“We made improvements from last year. As a coach, that’s all I can hope for,” Shimatsu said. “Improvement is good. I’m happy these boys got to experience a lot more, and they could taste what it feels like to be close and have the chance to win. Hopefully, they can learn from this experience and turn that into wins next year.”

Saturday was Kapaa’s senior day. Three Warrior seniors were recognized following the match: Nice, outside hitter Dave Joel and opposite Jalen Yago.

Along with the KIF championship, Kapaa secured a berth at the New City Nissan Boys Volleyball Championships – Division II state tournament, which begins May 4 on Oahu.

“It’s awesome. I feel like we still haven’t peaked yet. We’re still improving,” Nice said. “Finishing off the season is really nice. Now, we can put all our energy into states. Hopefully, we’ll have a good result. Obviously, we want to win. But we want to do the best we can to represent Kauai.”

The team dedicated the season to freshman setter Rusdan-Rocket Ahuna, who is in California receiving treatment for a brain tumor, Nice said.

“What kept us going was — he’s fighting his battle, and we’re going to fight this battle for him,” Nice said. “We’re not just playing for ourselves, not just for our team, but we’re playing for a teammate that’s not with us. And we wish he was here. He’s keeping us going.”

Kaona said he has received updates from Ahuna’s family, and that the Warriors freshman is in high spirits. Ahuna recently underwent a biopsy and is scheduled for surgery soon.

“He’s doing very well. His parents have been in touch with us and gave us some updates,” Kaona said. “That, definitely, is something inspirational to play for. It’s not a positive situation, but it’s something good for the boys to have something to rally around.”

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