‘Iolani precise in sweep of Kapolei

'Iolani handled a good Kapolei squad in the first round of the state tournament on Monday. Photo by Paul Honda/Star-Advertiser.

Kapolei finished fourth in the OIA West.

When the tall, precise, athletic Hurricanes stunned OIA West first-place finisher Waianae in the playoffs, it was Kapolei that looked the part of potential champion. The ‘Canes exploited Waianae’s weaknesses, using major advantages in height and length to smother the Seariders from the left and the right.

In fact, with Waianae’s five-set loss at Kamehameha-Hawaii on Monday night, there’s an argument to be made that coach Wilhelm Wagner and his staff did stellar work. They got a team without across-the-board height to overachieve, to go 9-1 in the regular season. The loss to Kapolei was clearly an eye-opener, and thus, the near upset on the road on the Big Island.

Kapolei? They weren’t quite the same after eliminating Waianae from OIA title contention. But that doesn’t diminish what the Hurricanes have done. If anything, what they did in the postseason following a 7-4 mark during the regular season should accentuate precisely how much potential exists for the program.

Before the 2017 season, the Hurricanes went a decade without reaching the state tourney. The got to the big dance in 2017 and lost in the opening round. In ’18, they reached the same level, losing in the opening round of the New City Nissan/HHSAA Boys Volleyball State Championships at ‘Iolani on Monday night, 25-17, 25-9, 25-21.

Kapolei is a program with athletes, some height and length, and nothing close to the year-round commitment and club play that are the norm for programs like ‘Iolani.

The Raiders were efficient. Sleek. Explosive. They hit .714 in game one. They hit .652 in game two. Then an interesting thing happened in game three. Kapolei figured a few things out. They began to serve-receive better. They leaped for four blocks. They kept it close and led at one point, 13-12 on a roof by 6-foot-3 Kaimana Rodrigues.

‘Iolani simply had too much timing, too many weapons and all the discipline in the world. Kawika Lee (11 kills, one ace), Cole Hogland (11 kills, one ace) and Ryan Van Cantfort (11 kills, one ace) were superb and prepared for every delivery from Shane Harimoto (35 assists). They also had six aces and kept the Hurricanes on their heels most of the night.

“Our coaches have been working hard, giving us good opportunities,” Harimoto said. “I think we did a good job getting over a slow start. Our serve passing was really good, so we were able to run the middle.”

The Raiders staff didn’t divulge much information to their players, but they did plenty of note-taking.

“It helps that Kapolei was on TV a lot,” ‘Iolani coach Jordan Inafuku said. “They had a great season. They’ve got great athletes.”

When Kapolei took away the outside ball, Harimoto went to middles Hogland and Kilo Scanlan (eight kills). There were a handful of back-row attacks, as well. Kapolei played its best in the third set, but the occasional lapses added up again.

For a program like Kapolei to reach ‘Iolani’s level, the ask is simple, but not easy. Reps are reps, wherever the game is played. The cost of playing year round, playing elite mainland and local competition, can be a major financial and time commitment. Among public schools, Moanalua has found a way, and the results are a string of OIA titles.

The West? Things get shaken up from year to year. There hasn’t been a dominant program in years, though there are clearly several good ones.

“Don’t count us out,” Kapolei coach Moani Mahelona said. “We will be back.”

The ‘Canes will have eight returnees next season, including the three players who moved up to the varsity for the postseason. They were out-aced 6-0. They hit .206 while ‘Iolani hit .518. Can they even things out in one offseason?

Like Kapolei, ‘Iolani went years between state-tourney appearances. Back when the ILH used to have three state berths, the Raiders finished second to Punahou in ’08. Then they lost in the ’09 quarterfinals against No. 2 seed Roosevelt. Then a loss to Kamehameha in the ’10 semifinals, resulting in a third-place finish.

From ’11 to ’16, no appearances. The Raiders finished third last year at states. They’ll face third-seeded Kamehameha-Hawaii on Thursday, the same Warrior team that needed five sets to get past Waianae. They’ll have two days to prepare.

“We’re deep. We’ve been managing them the same way all year,” Inafuku said.


Match #DateMatchupTime/ScoresSite
1April 30Mililani vs. MauiMil 25-17, 25-20, 19-25, 25-17Maui
2April 30Waipahu vs. KaiserWaip 25-23, 26-24, 21-25, 18-25, 16-14Kaiser
3April 30KS-Hawaii vs. WaianaeKSH 25-27, 25-22, 25-23, 23-25, 18-16KS-Hawaii
4April 30'Iolani vs. KapoleiIol 25-17, 25-9, 25-21'Iolani
5May 3(4) KS-Maui vs. 'IolaniIol 25-21, 25-17, 25-16McKinley
6May 3(2) Moanalua vs. KS-HawaiiMoan 25-15, 25-21, 25-9McKinley
7May 3(4) Kealakehe vs. WaipahuKeal 25-17, 20-25, 25-16, 25-14Moanalua
8May 3(1) Punahou vs. MililaniPun 25-12, 25-21, 25-10Moanalua
9*May 4KS-Maui vs. KS-HawaiiKSM 25-23, 26-24McKinley
10*May 4Waipahu vs. MililaniMil 23-25, 27-25, 15-10McKinley
11May 4'Iolani vs. MoanaluaMoan 25-15, 33-35, 29-27, 26-24Moanalua
12May 4Kealakehe vs. PunahouPun 25-13, 25-15, 22-25, 25-14Moanalua
13*May 5KS-Maui vs. MililaniMaui 23-25, 26-24, 15-11Blaisdell Arena
14*May 5'Iolani vs. KealakeheIol 25-18, 25-22Blaisdell Arnea
15May 5Moanalua vs. PunahouPun 25-19, 25-16, 25-21Blaisdell Arena
* — consolation


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