KAPAA — Since last year’s state tournament, the Warriors had their eyes set on making a return.
But just getting there wouldn’t be enough. Not this time.
“That’s our expectation. That’s our goal — to be in that final match,” said Kapaa High School varsity boys volleyball head coach Kapule Kaona during Tuesday’s practice at the Bernice Hundley Gym in Kapaa.
Kapaa High School’s varsity boys volleyball team is set for the New City Nissan Boys Volleyball Championships – Division II state tournament.
The No. 2 seeded Warrior boys will take on Konawaena of the Big Island Interscholastic Federation in the opening round at 5 p.m. today at Kalani High School in Honolulu.
“We were thrilled to get the second seed,” said senior outside hitter Carson Schmick. “It doesn’t mean it’s going to be anywhere easy or such. We know we still have a job to do. We know we got to get up there and play our hearts out.”
For the second consecutive season, Kapaa finished the Kauai Interscholastic Federation regular season a perfect 12-0.
The KIF season ended April 21, but the team has been working harder than ever.
“We’ve just been trying to refine things, particularly in our defensive game,” Kaona said. “We’ve been watching different film on different teams and ourselves, too, as well and trying to see where our weaknesses are. … And just trying to up the level of our intensity and our speed.”
At last year’s Division II tournament, the then-No. 4 seeded Warriors placed third.
The Warriors opened with a 3-1 win over Farrington of the Oahu Interscholastic Federation — 25-20, 25-18, 24-26 and 25-22.
Kapaa then lost to No. 1 seed and eventual DII winner Hawaii Baptist Academy of the Interscholastic League of Honolulu in straight sets — 21-25, 13-25 and 20-25.
“Definitely another level. A lot of experience,” said sophomore libero Pomai Rabago-Kaiwi about playing against HBA last year. “It woke the boys up a lot. In order for us to make it there and getting third, everyone was stoked to know we can get that far. This year, we want to just be ready for it.”
Kapaa then won the third-place match at the Neal S. Blaisdell Center against Damien Memorial of the ILH in straight sets, 25-21 and 25-20.
That loss to Hawaii Baptist, though, left a bitter taste for the Warriors.
During Tuesday’s practice at the school, Kaona and the players were straight forward. The team wants a rematch with Hawaii Baptist, who have won eight of the last nine tournaments including the last six.
“From the beginning of the season, we’ve always talked about rematching with HBA up in the state tournament,” Schmick said. “It may very well be possible, but first thing’s first: We got to take it a game at a time.”
That is possible should both Kapaa and HBA, who is seeded No. 1, reach the championship match.
“The boys have been excited, and they want another shot at HBA,” the coach said. “Obviously, (we) weren’t pleased with the result of last year’s game, in how we performed against them. So, we want another shot at them. I feel we have the tools. We have the players. I think we have all the pieces to make it happen this year, and to be able to give them a challenge and for them to not just be able to roll through.”
The team is, however, not looking too far ahead. The Warriors still are taking the step-by-step approach and not overlooking their opening round opponents.
“Before we can even think about HBA, obviously, the only way we can meet them if it’s in that final game,” Kaona said. “We still got the (first and second) game to take care of. We’re focusing on Konawaena.”
Rabago-Kaiwi added the team has been more pumped up since another KIF-representative recently won a state championship.
“Especially since Kauai High brought home their title for baseball, a lot of the boys have just been pumped to get out there and bring home our trophy,” he said. “We’re really stoked to be the second seed.”
Kaone said with this team, including seven returning seniors, this is as good an opportunity he’s had at a state championship since becoming head coach in 2013.
The KIF has one boys volleyball state championship, which saw Kapaa winning the DII title in 2005 under then-head coach Merrill Carvalho.
“I believe that, and the boys believe that as well,” Kaona said. “Part of being a champion is believing that you are. We believe we can be that, and there’s a lot of people that believe in us to be able to do that this year.”
“We want to make it happen. Obviously, it going to have to be done on the court. We can talk all we want about it. But unless we execute and make it happen in our play, it’s for nothing,” he added. “We’re excited for that opportunity, and we want to go get it this year.”
The Division II opening round matches today:
w No. 1 Hawaii Baptist (20-0 ILH) vs. Castle ( 9-4 OIA), 5 p.m. at Hawaii Baptist Academy
w No. 2 Kapaa (12-0 KIF) vs. Konawaena (7-7 BIIF), 5 p.m. at Kalani High School
w No. 3 Farrington (10-4 OIA) vs. Saint Francis (16-4 ILH), 7 p.m. at Kalani High School
w No. 4 Molokai (12-2 MIL) vs. Hawaii Prep (11-5 BIIF), 7 p.m. at Hawaii Baptist Academy