Cruse Aea’s 11 kills, Laiakea Hirahara’s 5 aces spark Kamehameha over Maryknoll

The Kamehameha Warriors opened the ILH season with a sweep of a tough Maryknoll squad on Saturday. Paul Honda/Star-Advertiser (Mar. 20, 2021).

Cruse Aea drilled 11 kills and Laiakea Hirahara had five aces with three kills as Kamehameha swept Maryknoll 25-16, 25-18 on Saturday at Kekuhaupio Gymnasium.

Elsewhere, Punahou outlasted Mid-Pacific at Mills Gym 25-17, 24-26, 25-10.

The Kamehameha-Maryknoll match was the Interscholastic League of Honolulu opener for both teams. Dylan Friedl added five kills and setter Cade Trujillo had 16 assists and one kill.

“Our passes were pretty solid today. We’re getting the ball up. We were getting good sets and good hits, and we found a way to win,” said Trujillo, a 6-foot-3 senior.

Isaiah Kalima-Izumi and Jaren Kaneshiro paced the scrappy Spartans with five kills apiece.

“Oh wow, obviously Kamehameha every year has good, seasoned players. A lot of them play with my son (Kana‘i),” Maryknoll Coach Andrew Ah Yee said. “I had to make adjustments, so that helps us with more court awareness. Kamehameha, you can’t take it away from them. They know the game.”

Maryknoll stayed fairly close at 12-9 in the opening set before the home team went on a 12-1 run. Aea had a back-row blast for point, and Hirahara hammered three kills in a row as the Warriors opened a 21-9 lead.

The Spartans gained some momentum in the latter stage of set one. They had their only lead, 1-0, after a service error by Kamehameha to begin the second game. With Kalima-Izumi at serve, the visitors stayed even with the Warriors at 8-all. From there, Kamehameha’s back row delivered smoothly and Aea had seven kills in the second set to power the Warriors.

“Without the fans, it’s a little different, but once the game starts you just focus on the game. It’s all right,” Kamehameha Coach Randy Nako said.

ILH boys volleyball teams saw their 2020 season cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This spring, there are no preseason tournaments and matches.

“It’s pretty much what they’ve been doing during practice. It was good that they were actually executing. We still got a lot of things to work on. It wasn’t perfect for us. The kids are working hard and that’s the main thing. We’ll get there,” Nako said.

An influx of talented, younger players makes this an interesting process.

“Lot of new guys, lot of new kids who haven’t played varsity are kind of put in a major role in the system. Once they get a little more comfortable in a real match situation, they should go smoother,” Nako said.

Aea has embraced his role as a senior leader.

“The first week was very fundamental. We’ve got a lot of new guys on the team, so it took some time to mesh together. I think today was a good day and a good sign for us moving forward. But we’re just grateful to just play,” he said.

Nako has coached for decades.

“Thank goodness that we can at least have a season. I’m happy for that.”

With girls volleyball postponed from fall to spring in the ILH, along with junior varsity teams, every player is adapting to the reality of a busy facility.

“I feel good. A lot of late practices, we had to do, from 6 to 8 (p.m.). Some of us getting home as late as 10 o’clock,” said senior co-captain Dylan Oliva, who lives in Waianae. “It’s worth it. We’re going to win it.”

Kamehameha’s boys and girls team travel to Punahou on Thursday in a showdown of perennial powerhouses.

“It’ll be a battle,” said Nako, who coached in Punahou’s boys and girls volleyball programs for several years. “I don’t know what they have. We just have to go there and play on our side of the court, and whatever happens, happens.”

No spectators were allowed at the match. Oliva has a message for Warrior fans and family who took the game in via a live stream on the school’s website.

“Thank you guys for watching on the live stream. Sorry you guys couldn’t come out, but we did the job,” he said. “We thank you guys.”

On Thursday, Maryknoll will host ‘Iolani, which edged Hawaii Baptist on Saturday. The Spartans were joined by three University Lab School players this season since ULS is not fielding a team.

“One, we appreciate that we have a season for the boys. I’m happy for them,” Coach Ah Yee said. “They were anxious, but being on the court brings happiness to them. They enjoyed it. Our team is young. We have three seniors, including Isaiah from University Lab coming over along with Matthew (Pila) and Maika. it’s a plus having them over. They bring more court etiquette. It’s good that I can really use them. We have just a few boys who are seasoned in the sport and the rest of them are mostly two-sport athletes.

Punahou 3, Mid-Pacific 1

Keau Thompson pounded 11 kills, Riley Haine had seven and Aidan Tune tallied six in the Buffanblu’s victory. Keegan Au Yuen had 20 assists. Punahou amassed four aces by Tune, Noa Haine, Riley Haine and Kahale Clini. Brighton Yap, Noa Haine and Jon Suh each had one block.

Punahou played reserves in the second set.

“It feels good to get back out there,” Buffanblu Coach Rick Tune said.

The Punahou-Kamehameha matchup on Thursday has the makings of another classic battle.

“It should be a fun match. They always have a lot of good talent and are well coached. This group of (Punahou) boys loves to compete, so I’m sure they are looking forward to it,” Tune said.

Note: Punahou-MPI results added 4:35 p.m.


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