By BILL O’REAR
Tribune-Herald sports editor
When you’re a teenager, talking usually comes easy — whether it’s on a cell phone, just chatting with friends, or ordering your favorite meal at a local fast-food outlet.
But when it comes to communicating on the volleyball court, it’s often a tough habit for a lot of players and teams to perfect.
On Tuesday night, unbeaten Hilo fought past Ka’u 25-21, 25-17, 25-17 in a Big Island Interscholastic Federation match at Hilo Armory.
“It was a really good match,” Hilo coach Olino Kotaki said. “Ka’u is a scrappy team. They have a really good defense and make you work. They challenged us but I think our girls stepped up and made the plays when we needed them.
“We still need to communicate more on the court and work hard to get better every day.”
Senior outside hitters Evalani Toledo (13 kills) and Amanda Loeffler (six kills, two aces) and senior middle blocker Keala Wilbur-Gabriel (6 kills, 1 ace) led the Hilo attack, with junior Taylor Alicuben and freshman Saydee Fujioka passing to the hitters in the Vikings’ effective two-setter offense.
“Hilo runs a lot of plays with that offense,” Ka’u coach Joshua Ortega said. “I thought Hilo played well tonight, and with that uptempo attack, it’s going to help them at states.”
The Division I Vikings (8-0) rode the play of Loeffler, Toledo and junior outside hitter Shavonne DeMattos (three kills, two aces) in Game 1 to hold off the Trojans 25-21
Ka’u’s Toni Beck, a dominant 6-foot-1 middle blocker, started to make her presence felt in Game 2. She had three early kills and a service ace as the Trojans tied the score at 4-4. The Vikings then took a 13-6 lead on Wilbur-Gabriel’s high-flying block and a 14-6 advantage on Loeffler’s kill.
In Game 3, Beck and senior outside hitter Kamalani Fujikawa kept Ka’u in the match with their solid hitting and blocking. The Division II Trojans (4-3) took a 7-4 lead on a Beck kill and led 10-6 on junior setter Kerrilyn Domondon’s timely dink.
But Wilbur-Gabriel ignited a Hilo rally with a kill and with Loeffler serving, the Vikings went on an 8-0 run to take a 16-10 advantage. Beck stopped the point spree with another kill, and helped Ka’u pull to within 17-13 on another hard shot through the Hilo block.
Wilbur-Gabriel had back-to-back kills to make it 24-17 before Loeffler closed the match with an ace.
“We started kind of slow tonight,” Loeffler said. “But Ka’u is pretty scrappy and gets to a lot of shots. But for us, we need to work on communicating better on the court. We need to talk more. Off the court, we’re pretty loud. On the court, we need to play more as a team, not individually.
“If all of us can work together as a team and communicate, it’s going to help make us better.”
Loeffler would like to see the Hilo offense become more fluid.
“We need to work on the offense and get our timing down,” she said. “If we can do that and communicate better, it’s going to help our setters and hitters.”
The Vikings also got a rock-solid defensive performance from senior libero Angel Alameda.
Wilbur-Gabriel, improving with confidence in each match, came off the bench to spark the hosts.
“I was just trying to do my job — blocking and being an effective hitter,” she said.
When Wilbur-Gabriel and Kyra Kaloi hit well in the middle, it takes some pressure off the dangerous Toledo and Loeffler, making the Vikings much harder to defend.
“Hilo has a lot of options, and I thought their setters did a good job tonight,” Ortega said. “Defensively, we did some good things. But we made a lot of crucial mistakes serving, and that hurt us the whole match.”
Fujikawa followed the tall Beck with 10 kills, while the feisty Domondon had a bundle of assists and three kills to help fuel the Trojans’ attack.
“Toni and Kamalani performed to their max,” Oretga said. “And Kerrilyn did a good job passing. But as a team, we’ve got to play better overall.”
Hilo will host unbeaten Kamehameha (6-0) in their lone regular-season match Wednesday, Oct. 2 at Hilo Armory.
Last year, the private-school Warriors beat the Vikings for the BIIF’s D-I title and top seed in the state tournament on Oahu.