After all these years, Kaiser volleyball coach Jon Stanley Sr. could easily be a bit jaded and crusty.
The Cougars overwhelmed the Kapolei Hurricanes in four sets on Monday night, ending the Cinderella dreams of the team that knocked out West leader Waianae last week. Now Kaiser (12-1) has only one obstacle standing in the way of a first OIA championship: unbeaten, six-time defending league champion Moanalua.
Stanley, soft spoken and measured, simply can’t get enough of the work his players put in. He is enjoying this squad, perhaps, as much as any he has guided.
“The tougher teams we get to play, the more we make plays,” he said.
The Cougars sometimes go just eight deep, but beating Radford in the quarterfinal round, and then Kapolei in the semis, that’s seven sets. Not a marathon, but the endurance of the Cougars is being tested.
“We haven’t played a lot of three-set matches,” Stanley said, referring to the regular season’s best-of-3 format. “We’re going to feel it tomorrow.”
His son, senior Jon Stanley Jr., and junior hitter Jacob Summers, were tireless. If the Cougars seem to lack depth, it doesn’t show much. Every piece, every part is well rehearsed. There are very few wasted opportunities. Key word: efficiency.
“Jon-Jon” Stanley had a healthy 23 kills and Summers had 21, including six in the fourth set to help Kaiser defuse the dangerous Hurricanes. Kala‘i Skeele dished a whopping 53 assists in a masterful performance.
Ezra Lono-Soares leaped for 16 kills to lead Kapolei (8-5).
“We saw them against Waianae and they played great defense,” the senior outside hitter said. “We had to focus on their two left-handers.”
Those would be Lono-Soares and first-year volleyball player Kaimana Rodrigues, who added seven kills. Unlike the win over Waianae, the ‘Canes never got into a sustained groove, partly because of a consistently effective Kaiser serve, as well as positioning on defense.
“We had to focus on them. They can hit everywhere, especially from the left, so we took away their line,” Stanley Jr. said.
Now the Cougars get a shot at Moanalua, which swept Kaiser in two close games during the regular-season.
“We just have to play hard and hopefully frustrate them,” Coach Stanley said.
“We were pretty close the first time,” Stanley Jr. said. “We’ll fight for our first banner.”