Six Oahu Interscholastic Association championships in a row is quite impressive, but it’s not the whole ball of wax that every volleyball player in the league dreams about.
The state tournament is next week for Moanalua Na Menehune, who earned that sixth straight league title in a four-set victory over previously undefeated Mililani at the Radford gym Thursday night.
“Don’t remind me,” said Moanalua head coach Alan Cabanting, when asked how far Na Menehune (14-0) has made it in the previous five seasons.
Cabanting had a smile on his face when he said it. He is well aware of the dominance of Interscholastic League of Honolulu teams in the state tournament. An ILH team has won it every year since 1980.
These past five years, Moanalua has made it to the state semifinals every time, with the following end result:
>> 2011: Kamehameha def. Moanalua 25-17, 25-13 25-18
>> 2012: Kamehameha-Hawaii def. Moanalua 25-15, 27-29, 25-18, 23-25, 15-10
>> 2013: Kamehameha def. Moanalua 15-12, 25-14, 22-25, 29-27
>> 2014: Kamehameha-Hawaii def. Moanalua 24-26, 25-23, 18-25, 25-23, 16-14
>> 2015: Kamehameha-Hawaii def. Moanalua 17-25, 25-22, 25-19, 25-23
Cabanting — who was the head coach in all of those years except 2011, when Doug Hee was the head man — talked about Na Menehune’s outlook as they move forward this season.
But first, he pointed out part of what made this team special, and that’s the six seniors.
“Five of them have been together for all four years,” the coach said. “They’ve all gone through the growing pains together.”
The six seniors are University of Hawaii commit Austin Matautia, Zach Kagehiro, Justen Fong, Sevi Engleman, Parker Lui and Christian Dela Cruz.
Juniors Nalu DeMello and Zach Miyamoto are other big supporting cast members for Matautia, the unquestioned team leader who had 32 kills in the win over Mililani on Thursday.
“Austin is hitting unbelievably,” Cabanting said. “He’s the best hitter I’ve ever coached. And he’s seeing it (the whole court) even better this year.”
Cabanting hinted that during the state tournament stretch run, Na Mehehune could be doing some things that they’ve never done before.
Asked if he’s got something up his sleeve, the coach said smiling, “A little bit.”
Matautia knows that it’s now or never in his high school career.
“It’s possible we’ll get the No. 1 seed because we went through our league undefeated,” he said. “Punahou (the defending champion) has lost one already (in five sets to Kamehameha on Monday).
“We’re really gunning for the state title and we have a chance if we stay together. We’ve beaten some of the top teams in the nation, including No. 2 Loyola (Los Angeles), and Redondo Beach and Thousand Oaks, who are ranked between the top 25 and 50.”
There are some top-notch teams out there in Hawaii, too, including Punahou, which is going for its fifth state title in a row, Kamehameha and Kamehameha-Hawaii, who, along with Moanalua, find their way to the state semifinals or state final every year.
Don’t count Na Menehune out, though.
“We’re hungrier than ever,” Cabanting said.