Kahuku more than validated its No. 3 ranking in the latest Star-Advertiser girls volleyball top 10 poll on Thursday night.
If anything, the Red Raiders showed they, not Punahou, are the team with the best shot at knocking off unanimous No. 1 Kamehameha come state tournament time.
While the Warriors have ripped through the ILH, the Red Raiders hadn’t been tested in league play until Thursday night’s OIA Red East showdown against No. 6 Moanalua, which like Kahuku, was 9-0 in conference play.
It took less than an hour for Kahuku, on Moanalua’s senior night no less, to blast Na Menehune, winning 25-15, 25-16.
I’ll admit that I have yet to see Kamehameha play this season. But if there’s a player out there better than Kahuku senior Adora Anae, I’ll be extremely impressed.
The 6-foot-1 Anae had a match-high 10 kills for a Kahuku team that hit .409 overall. Moanalua struggled on nearly every attack it made, finishing with 13 kills and 13 errors to hit .000.
Earlier this season, I watched Anae put down five kills in five swings in a match before getting subbed out midway through the first set, never to return.
Against Moanalua, Anae put in a little more time than normal, but was still on the bench, cheering on her teammates when the final kill was put down. The Utah commit, who I am told is still being heavily recruited by UH, took 21 swings in the match and was credited with one error on a ball that barely missed the line.
As skilled as Anae is, the thing that makes this Kahuku team so special is that it isn’t all about one player. The Red Raiders are deep, with multiple players capable of holding their own on the outside. Senior Sinamoni Tonga had six kills and 15 digs and middle Mariah Berard-Kamakeeaina added five kills while hitting .556.
“It’s like pick your poison with (Anae and Tonga),” Moanalua coach Tommy Lake said after the match. “They are as good as any two in the state on the outside.”
Junior Rachel Blake started at setter and had 16 assists in the first set, looking perfectly capable of carrying the load.
Instead, she sat out the entire second set as freshman ShaRae Niu ran the offense, collecting 10 assists and three digs.
Seven different Red Raiders wound up with kills. Clearly, Kahuku is the class of the OIA.
Now the question is, can they knock off the ILH powerhouses? Kahuku has lost to Kamehameha in three of the last four state tournaments, losing twice in the semifinals and once in the quarterfinals. It will be a tough task again this year, but if the Red Raiders can find themselves on the other side of the bracket, then they might not have to worry about the Warriors until the championship game.
Kahuku is the last team other than Kamehameha and Punahou to win a Division I state championship in girls volleyball, winning the 2002 title under coach Mona Ah Hoy.