On a team of young players, a senior like Jeminae Solomua is more than a starting outside hitter.
Solomua sets the tone. After pounding 16 kills in a 25-19, 25-19, 25-20 sweep of Kaiser in the OIA boys volleyball quarterfinals on Wednesday, coach Julna Pasicaran made it clear.
“Jeminae is their leader. The boys follow his lead,” Pasicaran said. “He’s a role model, involved with school government and he has good grades.”
That’s a big title to place on any high schooler, but the Marauders include a mix of older and younger players that includes three players who recently completed their junior-varsity season. All three saw playing time in the win over Kaiser.
It’s not just recent call-ups making a big difference. Freshman outside hitter Frank Vili, who had nine kills in 17 swings without a hitting error for a very effective .529 hitting percentage. Vili has been on the varsity squad all spring.
Setter Nofoalii Saolotoga was excellent all night, dishing 30 assists with four kills and an ace. In all the Marauders had 11 aces, including four by junior Craig Agni and two by sophomore Ken Bactot. Waipahu’s 11-4 edge in aces was a major factor in the win over the East’s No. 2 seed. Another super soph, Bradley Tacata, was involved in just about everything with seven kills, three aces and a block.
Waipahu (10-2) isn’t just a state-tournament qualifier. The Marauders look like a team peaking with just the right balance of defense, passing, hitting, setting and serving. Pasicaran, who has coached at Waipahu since 1986, can’t remember the last time a Waipahu team reached the Division I semifinals, let alone the finals.
In 1990 and ’91, Mary Corrales guided the Marauders to OIA titles in the pre-classification era. Pasicaran led Waipahu to a D-II league crown in ’05.
Kaiser, meanwhile, played well in spots, getting 14 kills and two aces from junior Jon Stanley. Still, the Cougars never quite got into any kind of consistent rhythm offensively. Dealing with Waipahu’s serve was an ordeal. Another obstacle was the blood on outside hitter Aaron Brocket’s jersey, the result of a gash on his chin early in the first set.
At first, he was on the bench being treated by a trainer. After his chin was taped up, he was ready to return to the game when officials detected some blood on his white uniform. He switched jerseys with a teammate, but officials ruled that was not allowed.
Coach Clay Stanley was surprised.
“That’s been OK for years,” he said.
In the meantime, Kaiser slipped behind Waipahu. Finally, the trainer treated the stained jersey and Brocket was able to wear it. A simple soap-and-water scrub in the restroom probably would’ve saved a lot of time, but the Cougars didn’t expect the officials to go by the book.
When Brocket returned, his team was down 13-10. They went on a mini-run and tied it at 15, but Waipahu’s balance and the precise setting of Saolotoga were too much. Waipahu had four aces along with only two service errors in each of the first two games.
The Marauders? A title run? They certainly looked the part on Thursday.