There’s no denying it.
Going best-of-5 in the playoffs makes a world of difference in the OIA. After an entire regular season of best-of-3, even higher-seeded teams that got a first-round bye felt the difference. At Kapolei, Waianae got two key performances off the bench in a 25-21, 25-17, 21-25 25-23 victory over East No. 2 seed Castle.
The Seariders were the stronger team for two sets, hitting .462 in the opening set and .310 in the second. Waianae, the third seed from the West, was sharper at serve with a 5-2 combined edge in the two games. Then came the third set, when Castle found its footing and rallied.
It was the play of two reserves that helped the starters get over that fatigue bridge that every OIA team is enduring at this point of the year. Alexus Kapihe, a 5-foot-8 outside hitter, didn’t get her first swing until game 3. She was fresh, pounded seven kills with only one hitting error, and though Waianae lost the set, her motor was a key part of the equation.
“Our other outside hitters were doing good,” coach Wilhelm Wagner said. “I know when she went in, she was hungry. She’s got a heavy hand.”
Kapihe’s energy gave Cherish Borge (11 kills) and Jasmine Fonoti (10 kills) some rest time. With all regular-season matches ending after roughly 2.6 sets — third sets were played only to 15 — Waianae and other teams in the playoffs are hitting a wall during third sets after opening with 2-0 leads. In the Seariders’ case, another key performer came off the bench. Chevelle Wagner-Chun had three of her four aces in the fourth set. Borge (three kills) and Fonoti (two kills) did their part, as did Kamilla Marinas (two) as Waianae held on for a close set win, ending the match.
That bench strength was the biggest difference between Waianae and Castle on this night. Now the Seariders will meet Kapolei on Monday in the semifinals at McKinley Student Council Gymnasium.
Kapolei won the regular-season matchup in two sets.
Waianae earned its first trip to the Division I state tournament since 2001.