Kaiser coach Jon Stanley had a tall task Wednesday – beat the iron of OIA boys volleyball.
But you can’t wave a wand and defeat Moanalua. The Cougars (12-2) didn’t, losing 25-15, 25-18, 25-11 in the league final at the Radford gym.
Na Menehune are back on top in the OIA, which they feel is their rightful place. Last year was rare. They didn’t win it. Prior to that, they had won six league D-I championships in a row and two D-II titles directly before that.
But Stanley’s effort at trying to bring Kaiser its first OIA title is similar to the job now facing Moanalua coach Alan Cabanting, who has been the head man for six of those seven D-I crowns.
Cabanting and his boys are headed to a familiar place – the state D-I tournament which they’ve never won. That title has been securely in the hands of ILH teams for years.
What can Moanalua (14-0) do differently to get it done?
Cabanting had an easy answer, but he must know that actually doing it will be supremely difficult.
“In our previous two matches (including one in which they vanquished defending OIA champion Mililani), we won, but half the points the other teams were earning were on our errors and missing serves. Tonight against Kaiser, we played exceptionally well and put it together in that first set.
“We haven’t played (ILH champion) Punahou this year, but we played against (ILH runner-up) ‘Iolani and lost because of errors and because we couldn’t put our serve in. We struggled. But I think we can be competitive with them if we play like we did in tonight’s first set.”
Punahou (13-0) and ‘Iolani (10-4) are the ILH’s representatives at the D-I states. The Buffanblu have won the last six state championships, eight of nine, 11 of 13, and 35 in all. The Raiders have won the state crown three times.
Stanley’s Cougars, who have never won an OIA championship, played more than half of Wednesday’s match without standout hitter Jon Stanley, the coach’s son. He injured his ankle and went for X-rays early in the second set.
“With Jon in there, who is a really good and active player, and without Jon in there, we just kept playing our game, playing our game,” said Moanalua’s Kalai Leopoldo, who had a match-high 14 kills with the help of setter Cole Fukumitsu. “We focused on what we had to get done and get out of here.”
Cabanting was extremely happy for four role players from a year ago who stepped up this year to become playmakers — Fukumitsu, Duncan Clark, Kainoa Ferguson and DiAeris McRaven.
“They knew the meaning of the (league) loss, so coming back and taking it is a great feeling,” Cabanting said.
Coach Stanley is hoping his son recovers quickly so the Cougars can make a run at the states (April 30 and May 3-5).
“It’s been a good season for us,” the coach said. “We’ve gotten better and better.”