KAPAA — In a do-or-die fifth set, the Red Raider girls saw its seven-point deficit dwindle to two. But the Red Raiders would get that decisive 15th point to get a big win on the road.
Kauai High School’s varsity girls volleyball team defeated Kapaa High, 3-2, on Wednesday night at the Bernice Hundley Gym in Kapaa — 26-24, 16-25, 24-26, 25-16 and 15-12.
“They fought hard. They didn’t give up. I’m proud of them,” said Kauai head coach Kehaulani Regidor.
After forcing a fifth set, Kauai (2-1 KIF) started fast and got out to a 13-6 lead. A kill by Red Raiders junior middle Hailey Iha started a Red Raiders 9-3 run.
Facing an uphill climb, Kapaa went on a four-point streak. Warriors senior outside hitter Keani Tolenoa scored three consecutive kills to bring the team to within three.
A kill by Iha brought the Red Raiders to within one point of sealing the road win, but then the Warriors scored two more points — one on a Red Raiders error and another on a block by senior middle blocker Leipua Kaui — to get back to within two.
Kauai High would survive, however, as a scoring attempt by Tolenoa sailed out of bounds to give the Red Raiders the win.
“Makes me stress — too much stress,” Regidor said about the back-and-forth match. “But it’s a good test for them, and again, it’s a learning experience that we have to be more consistent and push all the way through.”
She added: “The cheering on the sideline helped the girls a bunch. It made the girls on the court, you know, smile and shake the errors off.”
Iha led the team offensively with 13 kills.
“We really needed to make sure to keep the intensity the whole game,” Iha said. “We had big momentum shifts, so we needed to keep the momentum on our side. For the fifth set, the coach told us to just start strong so we could keep up the intensity.”
Though Kapaa (1-2 KIF) did close the gap in the final set, Warriors head coach Evan Costa said the team “woke up too late.”
“When it mattered for them, when we were in the hole, what was it? 11-4? Yeah, it was 11-4 in the fifth set,” Costa said. “That’s when it mattered, but it was too late. It should have mattered in the first set.”
After losing the first set, Kapaa won the second set by nearly double-digits and then won the third set in a nail-biter.
In the fourth set, Warriors senior setter Rachel Pleas went down on what appeared to be an ankle injury. She returned to an ovation by the home crowd, but sat out the fifth set.
Pleas ended with a 23 assists as well as five kills, three aces and two digs. Costa is hopeful Pleas will be well enough to play in the team’s next match Saturday.
“We weren’t prepared for that. And because of our system, I wasn’t ready for that,” Costa said. “Because of what we have, the personnel maximizes our youth. But overall, in this crucial game, it caught up with us. Everything was new. That’s what actually got us in the end. Who made the least amount of errors? We definitely made the most. There’s no excuse for having them on the ropes, and then you put the ball out.”
For Kauai, this was the third consecutive match in which the team played to five sets.
“Well, we do a lot conditioning at practice,” Iha said. “Coach really wants to make sure we keep up the energy and don’t get tired in the fifth set.”
Junior middle Rebecca Zenger had nine kills and a dig for Kauai High. Junior outside hitter Maria Gojkovic had seven kills.
Red Raiders junior setter Kaytlyn Perlas had 16 assists, a kill and two digs. Sophomore libero Darien Kealoha-Albarado had eight digs.
Tolenoa had 17 kills and six digs for Kapaa. Sophomore middle Talia Washington had 10 kills and five digs.
Warriors freshman setter Maeha Piturachsatit had 21 assists and two aces.
Kapaa beat Kauai High, 2-1, in the junior varsity match — 17-25, 25-23 and 25-22.
In the night’s other Kauai Interscholastic Federation varsity match, Waimea defeated Island School in straight sets in Puhi — 25-22, 25-12 and 25-16. Waimea also won the JV match — 25-12, 25-13 and 25-16.
Kauai High will host Waimea and Kapaa will host Island School on Saturday. The JV games will begin 5 p.m. and the varsity will follow.