A month ago, Max Slaughter hobbled around with a gimpy ankle.
It was not a good sign for the talented senior, nor Na Menehune of Moanalua. A loss to Castle, sans Slaughter and DeAeris McRaven — who was part of Moanalua’s digital media crew in Seattle — left a void in them.
A month later, on Wednesday night, Moanalua completed its OIA run with a 25-19, 22-25, 25-21, 26-24 over Kalaheo for the OIA Division I championship. Moanalua repeated and has now won seven of the last eight crowns.
Slaughter was resilient with 29 kills in 62 swings.
“That was everything I thought it would be,” the senior said. “Our fan base was amazing in this game. It was really awesome.
The ankle, he said, is almost 100 percent. Playing best-of-5 in the playoffs, as opposed to best-of-3 in the regular season, is always a factor. Slaughter carried his team at times, pounding 11 kills during the second set. He had just two hitting errors until the epic fourth set, and finished with seven miscues.
“He’s coming off the injury. He babying it. There’s a couple plays he could’ve made. If he’s not injured, he’s making those plays, but he’s second-guessing it,” longtime Moanalua coach Alan Cabanting said. “We’ve had some two-and-a-half (hour) practices so they can get used to (long matches). Our seniors stepped up when they needed to.”
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With McRaven up to the task with 17 kills and two blocks, and seven kills plus two crucial fourth-set blocks by middle Joshua Galeria, Moanalua had just enough balance to thwart the stubborn Mustangs.
“DiAeris played big for us,” Cabanting said. “We’ve been waiting for him to come around and he made some incredible attacks.”
Liam York’s 19 kills came against a mighty wall led by the 6-foot-5 McRaven. York, Cabanting noted, often hit over Moanalua’s block. He missed the regular-season matchup with an ankle injury of his own.
“It was tough,” Cabanting noted. “We need to keep more serves in there. Our key players went in and kept their serves in, and they took care of business. It’s difficult for our back row because Liam was hitting over our blocks. Kudos to these guys. Those final five, six points, they were in their spots and forced Liam to do things he wasn’t comfortable for him.”
Moanalua (13-1) will have roughly a week to prepare for the state tourney as a seeded champion with first-round bye. Kalaheo (12-2) will begin play on Monday in the opening round.