Some teams just want to survive and advance.
The elite thrive and advance. Winning and peaking in the post-season are a way of life on the hill for the Kamehameha Warriors. Kamehameha’s 25-20, 25-17, 22-25, 25-17 opening-round win over Kapolei sends the Warriors into the quarterfinals. The Warriors (9-5) will play a young, unbeaten Baldwin squad that has rocketed to the top of the MIL under new coach Al Paschoal.
“I know they’re well coached. Their coach used to be at King Kekaulike and is now down at Baldwin,” Kamehameha coach Chris Blake said. “They ran through the league pretty well so we know we’re going to have our work cut out for us. We’re happy to get back in the gym tomorrow and get back to work.”
The Bears will face the same obstacles Kapolei saw on Monday night: relentless blocking, scrappy digging and a balanced offensive attack.
Devin Kahahawai (22 kills, 19 digs, two blocks) was overpowering at times, but setters Marley Roe and Sierra Scanlan also found Maui Robins (11 kills, 27 digs), middle Adrianna Arquette (10 kills) and Tia Kapihe (10 kills). Kapihe was effective on the right side, giving the Warriors a full arsenal.
Blake expected a strong challenge from the OIA’s fourth-place team.
“In game three, they ran out pretty far,” Blake said. “It was a good play for us to go. We separated until the end part of the match. We expect everybody’s best match. In that third set, they fought really hard. They came out and pulled it out. So we talked about what we need to regroup and then our team was able to settle down and do the things we needed to do to come out with that win in game four.
Kapolei’s serve was tough, as expected.
“They put us in some tough spots. Our setters began to settle down after a bit. Things like Syd (Sniffen) coming off the bench. She had a good run in game three to help us get us back into it. Those little things are important, her serve and what she did when we were down a bunch. She got us back to be even or one (point) up,” Blake said.
When the opportunity to get more game action arrived, he got more looks at his depth. Kamehameha was up 20-16 in the third set when Kahahawai took a rest. If she stays in, the Warriors likely sweep. Blake, a math teacher by trade, always weighs the risks and rewards.
“We want to make sure that we take each opportunity to get better one play at a time. We try to see what kind of other options and players — it’s been a few years since our state tournament and we only have only a few players who have gotten that kind of experience,” Blake said. “Working on getting more players into that kind of situation is better for us in the long haul. The strength of our team is the team. We’re happy to move on into the semifinals.”
After winning game three, the Hurricanes had momentum in game four. There was just no viable way to stop Kamehameha’s balance. Stop either side and the middle, and here comes Kahahawai with a missile from the back row.
“Kamehameha was really consistent and steady the whole time,” longtime ‘Canes coach Naidah Gamurot said.
Kamehameha has won four of the last seven state championships. Under Blake, the Warriors have won 10 state titles since 2005. The program has 22 championships since the inaugural girls volleyball state tourney in 1969.
Kapolei (11-3) has been an OIA powerhouse for roughly a decade now. The visiting Kapolei Hurricanes, unbeaten in OIA play before losing to eventual league champion Kahuku in the league semifinals, know the peril of facing ILH competition in the state championships.
In 2019, Kamehameha swept Kapolei 25-20, 25-14, 25-20 in the quarterfinal round at Moanalua gym. Kamehameha went on to win the title.
In 2018, Kapolei lost to ‘Iolani 25-19, 25-16, 25-15 in the opening round at the Raiders’ gym. Kamehameha defeated Moanalua, Kahuku and ‘Iolani to win the crown.
In 2017, Kapolei swept Farrington 25-13, 25-21, 25-20 in the opening round at the Hurricanes’ gym. Kapolei ousted fourth seed Waiakea 25-17, 25-13, 20-25, 25-13, then lost to eventual champion Kamehameha 25-18, 25-20, 25-23 in the semifinals.
In 2016, Kapolei went to Waiakea in the opening round and pulled out a 25-23, 25-19, 18-25, 24-26, 15-11 victory. Kapolei then lost to second seed Kamehameha 25-13, 25-21, 25-15 in the quarterfinals. ‘Iolani later beat Kamehameha in four sets for the title.
In 2015, Kapolei swept Kamehameha-Hawaii in the opening round 25-23, 25-18, 25-20 at Moanalua’s gym. Kapolei then lost to Moanalua in three sets in the quarterfinals.
In 2014, Kapolei swept Castle 25-13, 25-22, 25-17 in the opening round at Kamehameha-Maui’s gym. Kapolei then outlasted fourth seed King Kekaulike 22-25,18-25, 27-25, 25-18, 15-8 in the quarterfinals. Kamehameha then swept Kapolei in the semifinal round.
Some coaches might feel better about playing a schedule without any of the ILH powerhouses involved. Gamurot thinks differently. The pandemic limited preseason competition in 2021 to Gamurot’s chagrin.
“I wish we could’ve played them in preseason,” she said.
A few years ago, then-Punahou coach Tanya Fuamatu-Anderson was enthused by the return of OIA-ILH crossover football games. Why not the same with volleyball, she wondered.
“I wish we could do that,” Gamurot said. “When Kamehameha, Punahou and ‘Iolani play, they really don’t know who’s going to win. That’s a great way to have a season.”
This season’s Kapolei squad, she added, would be among the best four she has coached. The lineup featured Kailana Andrade, Kilinahe Andrade, Maya Saole-Su‘e, Alizaysha Sopi and Myah Feliciano.
“Some of the positions would be near the top,” Gamurot noted.
Kamehameha Doesn’t Recruit!
Lol. Lol. Lol. Lol. Lol. Lol. Lol. Lol.