The stunned reaction before a boisterous home crowd at Waianae was almost eerie.
There was no doubt, however, that the Kapolei Hurricanes were the superior team on this night. The OIA West’s fifth-place team shocked the division’s top seed 25-19, 21-25, 25-20, 25-19. Kapolei (8-4) advances to the semifinal round and will meet Kaiser, which swept Radford earlier at Waianae’s gym.
Every time Waianae (9-2) seemed on the verge of a major run, the ‘Canes settled down and simply won the battle at every position. Waianae’s Blaze Kahikina (17 kills) was a force at times, but he faced double teams all night. No other Searider could capitalize, partly because the ball kept going left and Kapolei continued to set up their block. And partly because the Hurricanes have evolved tremendously since the start of the season.
It’s almost like the ILH’s iron-sharpens-iron ecosystem. This time, it’s a tall, long and springy Kapolei team that prevailed and looked much more like a team ready to make a title run.
“Oh my gosh, I’m exhausted,” Kapolei coach Moani Nahulu-Mahelona said. “It’s just believing they can do this, and they executed everything we asked them to do. They weren’t holding back. They had confidence. Any time we play Waianae, we bring out the best in each other.”
Basketball player-turned-volleyball middle blocker Kaimana Rodrigues, a 6-foot-3 left-hander, was a big factor with several blocks and a handful of kills to take advantage of gaps over the middle of the court.
“We’ve been trying to recruit him to volleyball. He has a lot of heart and he brings that freshness back to the game,” Nahulu-Mahelona said.
It was an inspired effort by the team in hard-to-read black-and-teal uniforms. The one clear thing is that they were literally willing to run through walls to save every ball. Libero Donovan Leopoldo-Vierra actually smashed his head into a back wall — fortunately it is made of wood — to save a ball that led to a key Kapolei point in the fourth set. That kind of effort was on display all night from the fearless Hurricanes.
Leopoldo-Vierra got the left side of his head iced down by a trainer before returning for his part of the rotation a few minutes later.
Kapolei will meet the second seed from the East, Kaiser, in a semifinal matchup on Monday. With the win, Kapolei sealed a state-tournament berth.
“We’re definitely not done,” Nahulu-Mahelona added.
Waianae coach Wilhelm Wagner credited the Hurricanes on showing a different look. The Seariders will meet Radford on Monday with a state berth awaiting the winner.
“They pulled two or three kids from the JV that we never saw before,” he said. “Now we improve or we’re done with the season.”