Moanalua boys volleyball: the Great OIA Hope

Moanalua’s Max Slaughter (10) is a big part of Na Menehune's squad this year. Photo by Cindy Ellen Russell/Star-Advertiser.

ILH dominance has been unreal in state boys volleyball.

You have to go back 40 years to the Robin Goo-coached Roosevelt Rough Riders in 1979 to find an OIA team that turned out to be the best in the state.

Eighty-eight percent of the time (44 of 50 years), a private school has won the top-level championship. One school, Punahou, has 36 of those titles, and that’s a 72-percent clip.

What can the underdog public-school teams do? Keep plugging away is the best answer, and that’s what Moanalua has been doing for the last decade.

Na Menehune (4-0) won its 37th straight set in OIA competition Wednesday night at home in a 25-17, 25-13 sweep of Kaiser, handing the Cougars their first loss. Moanalua has won seven of the last eight league championships and is the only undefeated team remaining in the OIA East.

Against the Cougars, Na Mehehune got off to a sloppy start before righting the ship and easily winning. It’s obvious they are still trying to put the right pieces together.

Early in the second set, setter Cole Fukumitsu got Moanalua humming and Max Slaughter, 6-foot-4 DiAeris McRaven and Michael Pawlak kept finding holes in the Kaiser defense.

It was as in-system as you can get — dig, set, ka-boom.

But Moanalua won’t be resting on that any time soon. Coach Alan Cabanting is constantly looking for ways in which Na Menehune can improve. For instance, he took the squad to Poway, Calif., last weekend to play in the Best of the West tournament.

Placing fifth in the Silver Division is one thing, but picking up things from some of the best high school squads in the tournament is another.

“That was a really good experience,” Cabanting said. “To see how volleyball could be. Mira Costa, Huntington, Newport Harbor, they’re playing a true collegiate type of attack. We have the athletes to do it. It’s just working the timing in there.”

Slaughter showed a combination of power and placement in the win over Kaiser, and McRaven showed his immense athletic skills.

Moanalua setter Cole Fukumitsu (9) is the man running the show for the Na Menehune offense this year. Photo by Cindy Ellen Russell/Star-Advertiser.

“Max is one of the most consistent guys we have,” Cabanting said. “At the Best of the West, the Mira Costa and Corona liberos were struggling to dig him and he kept us in a ton of tight situations. When we go to Max, we know it’s going to be a consistent attack and not an error. We’re seeing what other guys can really contribute. We are working with Max on the outside and DiAeris at opposite and working on spreading it out more.”

Fukumitsu, who had 17 assists and watched solid play from backup Nicholas Au in the late stages, knows that Moanalua has the potential to take another shot at Punahou.

“We definitely can always improve,” he said. “Last year against Punahou, they had maybe six Division I-bound guys and we did well. Every year, we’re only getting better.”

As for McRaven, Cabanting said, “His athleticism and everything is there and we’re working on getting his volleyball IQ up.”

And the long run?

“We still have a ways to go,” the coach added. “We have the people to be able to get there (state final) again, but the mind-set, the hard work you need to put in, there’ a lot of things we gotta work out. They’re working to get there.”


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