By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
Kohala senior Jocelyn Campollo looks to the past for motivation, often thinking about the bar her sister Caitlynne and former teammate Brooke Kise set as volleyball back-row ballhawks.
Campollo made a spirited effort to cover every inch of the backcourt and racked up 35 digs, but it wasn’t enough in Kohala’s 25-11, 28-26, 25-12 loss to Waiakea in a Big Island Interscholastic Federation match on Saturday in the Warriors Gym.
The Division I Warriors (2-1) brought a balanced attack, and bigger block in every rotation, producing more scoring runs and defensive stops. That’s seen in their kill totals: Keiran Cardoza led the way with eight kills, while Hi‘ilei Ishii-Chaves and Lindsey Maikui had four each, and super athletic sophomore middle Kadara Marshall added four kills.
Waiakea setter Kylee Ancheta had pinpoint feeds from her passers and finished with 25 assists. That’s an average of eight kills per set, a pretty good connection between setter and the hitters.
Hauoli Sprout-Lancaster and Na‘ai Solomon-Lewis had five and four kills, respectively, to lead the shorter Division II Cowgirls (1-2), who put up two blockers and played everyone else in the back.
The best action came in the second set. Campollo’s ace handed the Cowgirls a 23-20 lead. But two hitting errors and an ace by ShyAnn Medeiros tied it. It was knotted again at 26-26 when Solomon-Lewis knocked down a pair of kills.
But Kohala had a service error and Marshall dropped an ace, one of Waiakea’s nine on the day, to finish the second set. That sent all of Kohala’s momentum out of the gym and into Hilo’s humidity for the anticlimactic final game.
“I liked that everybody was talking and communicating,” Campollo said about the second game. “We were passing and everyone stayed in their places. Then everybody dwelled on their mistakes and our energy dropped. When we play like how we practice, everybody is so happy. When we do that, pass and make a kill, it works.
“I try to bring the best defense like my sister Caitlynne and Brooke. When I was a sophomore, my sister was a senior and when I was a freshman Brooke was a senior. They were liberos.
“I want to make them and my family proud, and show that I’ve improved throughout the years. I try to be as good as them or better.”
Campollo is often fielding bullets because two blockers can’t close all the seams. But she’s got savvy court sense and better footwork, frequently moving to the spot where she thinks the ball will be hammered to the floor.
“She brings good leadership, and one thing about her is she has anticipation, but she hesitates,” Kohala coach Malia Kaitoku said. “I tell her to go for it. She has great movement and moves to cover the court fast.”
Last season, Kohala fell to St. Joseph (now part of East Pac with Christian Liberty) in the first round of the eight-team BIIF Division II playoffs, after eliminating the Cards a year earlier.
Last year, the Cowboys were young with only two seniors, but promising — as evidenced in the All-BIIF voting. Outside hitter Sproat-Lancaster, setter Mohala Kaholoaa-Kumukoa, and libero Campollo received honorable mention as juniors.
Waiakea middle blocker Cardoza was honorable mention on the All-BIIF Division I team.
The last time Kohala qualified for the Hawaii High School Athletic Association state tournament was 1999, when there wasn’t statewide classification. (The Division II state tourney was introduced in 2005.)
The coach back then was Celeste Keyes, the mom of last year’s coach Dwayne “Braddah” Keyes and Kaitoku’s aunty. Kaitoku, who was the junior varsity coach last season, and Braddah Keyes are first cousins.
In 2011, the Cowgirls fell to Ka‘u in the third-place match for a spot in Division II state tournament. The previous season, they didn’t qualify for the playoffs and had no chance to states.
It’s a big-time itch for Campollo and her fellow seasoned seniors Sproat-Lancaster and Kaholoaa-Kumukoa.
“Ever since my freshman year, we’ve never made it,” Campollo said. “Now that we’re seniors we want to push and go to states. I feel we’ve got the potential.”
The nuts and bolts, the two important pieces that glue a volleyball team together (besides great chemistry and teamwork) are passing and serving — the first two touches on the ball.
The Cowgirls have the first part covered with Campollo, who makes a big impact (35 digs in only three sets), despite being only 5 feet tall.
“We don’t have much height. We only play two blockers in the whole front row,” Kaitoku said. “When it’s one-on-one, they do good. As long as they go up, Jocelyn can dig in the back. I tell the blockers to just go up because we have Jocelyn in the back.”