LIHUE — Down 2 sets to 1, Waimea High School coach Brandi Hori-Moises was alone on the court of the Wilcox Gymnasium at the Island School campus, Wednesday night.
The Menehune wahine were huddled in a corner of the gym filled to overflowing with fans brought to the brim of boiling by the excitement.
“I don’t know what they were doing,” Hori-Moises said. “Whatever it was, it worked”
Waimea came back to take the fourth set, 25-20 to force the fifth set. The girls in blue held off a strong Island School challenge to claim the fifth set, 15-13 after the Voyagers came from a 6-9 deficit to knot the set, 11-11 behind a string of serves from June Hsu.
The Voyager yellowshirts took the lead 12-11 on an Ashley Mecham hammer, but a service error sent the ball back to the Menehune with a 12-12 stalemate.
A Menehune hitting error see-sawed the ball back to the Voyagers, 13-12 before Waimea’s hammer, Raelee Samio took control to drive home the final three points, breaking the 13-13 logjam, and going ahead to seal the deal, 15-13.
“I’m very excited,” Hori-Moises said, tears of joy glistening in her eyes as fan after fan trooped by to congratulate the coach. “This was very challenging, and I’m glad the girls stayed up and did it, together. This game definitely helped the girls build confidence heading into Round 2.”
The victory improved Waimea to 5-0 on the Kauai Interscholastic Federation girls volleyball season with one game remaining in Round 1. The victory also earned the Menehune the Round 1 crown after snaking past the Voyagers in five sets — 25-16, 16-25, 15-25, 25-20, and 15-13.
That excitement was shared at the Bernice Hundley Gym in Kapaa where the Kauai Red Raider ladies picked up its first season win in five sets against the hosting Warrior wahine, 25-21, 17-25, 25-11, 14-25, and 15-7.
Earlier in the evening, Waimea Junior Varsity was a 2-1 victor over the JV Voyagers, 25-3, 25-22, and 18-25, while over in Kapaa, the JV Red Raiders preserved its win streak with a similar 2-1 win over Kapaa, 25-9, 28-26, and 16-25.
“We had our chances,” said Island School head coach Darrick “Deej” Peleras, following a lengthy post-game huddle with the Voyager ladies. “The girls played well, and gave fans long rallies. It comes back to what I said at the start of the season, we need to get the rest of the team up to the level of Ashley.”
Following the first set, a Waimea victory where the first of the long rallies brought the crowd to life before Waimea’s Makeyah Wisneski settled the ball, 21-12 in favor of the Menehune. Isabella Bateman came up the middle and another Wisneski bang saw the Menehune at 24-13. But the door wouldn’t close and Mecham served up a string to the 16-24 mark, the serves forcing Menehune passing miscus before Samio closed the door, 25-16 for the Menehune.
“This was good volleyball,” said Jack Leonard, a volleyball fan. “I paid $4, and I got more than my money’s worth, tonight.”
The Voyager ladies rebounded from the opening loss and ignited a battle of the hammers — Mecham from Island School, and Samio from Waimea.
Mecham pulled the Voyagers from a 19-16 bulge in the second set, serving up a string of six unanswered points fueled by an ace, a pair of whacks from the back, and getting a solid block from Ki‘ilani Arruda, the Voyager middle collapsing in joy following the block.
“When we first started the program, it was only to get them together,” said Island School athletic director Jerry Jona. “The win didn’t matter. Now, the girls are starting to believe.”
The Voyager momentum carried into the third set where Island School broke away from deadlocks at 3-3, 10-10, 11-11, 12-12, and 13-13 to pull ahead on service by Katie Cook to the 24-14 mark before Mecham sealed the 25-25 set on an ace, forcing the Menehune into the 2-1 hole where they needed to dig out of by winning two straight sets.
“For a lot of the girls, this is the first time they’re experiencing this — being so close to a win in such a critical match,” Peleras said. “Details cost us the game. Small things that we didn’t see. But we’re on track; we gave Waimea a good game; we could see them get worried — we could see it in their faces — we have arrived. We are proud of the way our girls handled themselves on the court. There is a lot more volleyball to play, and it’s going to be fun.”
Waimea will be on the court against Kauai High School, Saturday at the Kauai High School gym, and Island School will travel to the Bernice Hundley Gym in Kapaa. The JV games serve up from 5 p.m. followed by the varsity matchups.
Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.