They hoped and they prayed.
Now, the Kamehameha girls volleyball team gets its chance to extend one of the greatest dynasties in Hawaii high school sports history. Since 2005, the Warriors have won 10 state championships under Coach Chris Blake, including the 2019 crown.
Since that day in the fall of 2019, they have waited 16 months for a chance to compete again. The Interscholastic League of Honolulu postponed all fall sports in 2020, and girls volleyball was one of the few sports to survive.
Kamehameha will open league play with Le Jardin on Saturday. Game time is 12:45 p.m. at Kekuhaupi‘o Gymnasium. The Warriors will be led by 2019 Star-Advertiser All-State selections Devin Kahahawai and Maui Robins, both junior outside hitters. They are, as always, stacked with talent. Seniors Isha Knight and Kanoe Lindo are also outside hitters. Libero Jenesis Rios and middle Hina Chow, also seniors, are also key returnees.
Last season’s All-State player of the year, Keonilei Akana, is now playing for No. 5-ranked Nebraska (11-2). She is second on the team in aces with 15.
There will be a double-round robin of of Interscholastic League of Honolulu regular-season play followed by a single-elimination playoff tournament. There will be no state tournament.
Blake and his staff have kept in contact with their team through the long offseason. Nothing beats getting back on the court.
“It is an awesome feeling to be able to get back into the gym and compete. We are excited for the opportunity to begin our process of returning to play. It is an amazing job by the league and the countless hours of work by our athletic administration as well as all of the schools to put this together and make it happen. We are especially stoked for the seniors as it is an opportunity for them to be able to represent their schools in competition during this challenging school year. They really deserve it,” Blake said.
The restrictions due to COVID-19, he added, will vary.
“The protocols will be different for every school in order to get into their facilities. Playing with masks is mandatory and is a part of the new reality we will be playing in. We will not be changing sides between sets or shaking hands after the match. No spectators in the gym will take a bit of getting used to and finding energy will be a challenge,” he said.
Blake remembers the day Kamehameha last played a match. The Warriors rallied past Punahou for a four-set win in the state finals.
“The last competition for high school girls volleyball was Oct 26, 2019, and it was been about a year and a half since we played here in Hawaii and with all that has gone on over that time, being able to have competition is a blessing. It is not lost upon our team about the importance of this opportunity we have as many others are not able to compete. We will work to be able to make the most of it. There will not be testing protocols, however there are thorough safety and wellness checks that each institution will have as many of these schools are at least in a face to face or hybrid learning situation on their campuses,” he said.
From the start of the pandemic in the spring of 2020, Blake has cautioned his team about keeping their social circles small just to have a chance at playing a normal volleyball season.
“The safety of all scholar-athletes, coaches and support staff are of the highest importance and will be taken very seriously. Also, through the hard work of many, we were able to get approvals to livestream all matches that are not being televised. Each school will have their own protocols and streaming links and it will allow for supporters to see the matches,” he said.
In all, Kamehameha has won 22 state championships in girls volleyball since the first state tournament in 1969.