LIHUE — The Waimea High School boys volleyball team dug themselves out of a hole to claim the opening match of the Kauai Interscholastic Federation boys volleyball season, Friday night before several hundred fans, including the traditionally-strong home stand crowd, at the Kauai High School gym.
After matching play through three sets, the Menehune leadership of Ryan Emayo-Schmitt, Keahi Mattos, and Bryuson Kapahu poked through the hardwood floors, guided by the setting of Jonah Sandal settled the opening night in five sets — 25-22, 22-25, 25-20, 18-25, and 19-17.
“This was a good fun game,” said Waimea first-time coach Kell Nonaka. “There was a lot of ups and downs, but we had people rising to the occasion. The game mentality is starting to set in for these boys.”
Earlier in the evening, the host Kauai High School junior varsity team settled the floor in three straight sets — 25-16, 25-18, and 25-19.
Staying close through the opening set, Waimea pulled ahead, 19-17 on a Kapahu bang only to run into a hitting error to knot the set, 19-all. Kauai passing errors pushed Waimea up, and Kapahu put away the set with a final slam, 25-22.
“These were good games,” said Kauai coach Enoch A‘ana. “Mentally, it got the best of our people. Everything starts with passing. We can’t have our setters running all over the court.”
Kauai, staying close to a 12-12 deadlock in the second set, looked at a five-point hole created by the blocking and hitting of Mattos and Raider passing miscues.
Catalyzed by a Menehune passing error, Kauai battled back on a Kaimani Tecson whack and back-t0-back blocking from Miles Davis in the middle, both players making the transition from basketball. A Davis bang knotted the set, 20-20 before a Rence Soriano hit put Kauai up, and a Davis block sealed the set.
“This must be opening jitters,” A‘ana said. “We’ve got to keep working on that — starting with playing on a higher level. We need to be more relaxed. Props, too, to Waimea who came out with its new coach. It’s never easy the first time, out.”
During the fourth set, Kauai built a 9-1 lead by capitalizing on Menehune hitting errors and Soriano blocking. Waimea chipped back, but could not overcome the hole before a Keane Tibon block forced the fifth set, 25-18.
More Tibon blocking and hitting, a Soriano ace, and a Micah Agtunong bang coupled with Menehune hitting errors for a 7-4 Kauai lead.
Waimea turned to Emayo-Schmitt hitting and an ace, and a Kauai passing error saw the Menehune looking at an 11-12 deficit. Tibon answered with a whack, but Waimea took the lead 15-14 on a Kapahu bang and Emayo-Schmitt sealed the deal.
“The boys are starting to click,” Nonaka said. “But this is only the first game, and we can only get better from here.”
Kauai next makes the trip to the Bernice Hundley Gym, Tuesday for its first encounter against Kapaa when the JV contest opens at 5 p.m. Waimea will come across the bridge to the Wilcox Gymnasium at Island School for a single match against the Voyagers’ varsity starting at 6:30 p.m.
Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.