By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
PAHOA — The goal-driven Pahoa’s girls volleyball team needs one more win with two Big Island Interscholastic Federation matches waiting like a dangling carrot to make school history, again.
The Daggers beat Kohala in four sets in the BIIF Division II quarterfinals on Wednesday at their gym, earning their biggest victory in nearly two decades.
In 1997, Pahoa qualified for the Hawaii High School Athletic Association state tournament, a monumental accomplishment considering statewide classification only started in 2005. The Daggers other state appearance was in 1986.
Pahoa (8-7) plays BIIF regular-season champion Konawaena (12-2) in the semifinals at 2:30 p.m. today at Koaia Gym on Kamehameha’s campus.
If the Daggers win, they’ll get that coveted state berth. Earlier in the season, the Wildcats swept Pahoa in three sets.
If the Daggers lose, they’ll play in a third-place match at 4 p.m. on Saturday. Kona already clinched the first of the league’s three spots to the Division II state tourney.
No matter what fork in the road Pahoa takes someone tough is going to be standing in the underdog’s way.
In a possible third-place match, Pahoa would face either Hawaii Prep (11-3) or Ka‘u (10-5), the defending BIIF champion.
The Daggers lost home matches to HPA in three sets, and fell to the Trojans in five. Next season, Pahoa will play on the road at HPA and Ka‘u in the regular season.
The Daggers are also fighting tradition, a powerful motivating factor for the Big Three (Ka‘u, Kona and HPA). The Trojans have been to states three straight years, the Wildcats the last two seasons, and it’s been seven in a row for HPA, missing only the inaugural tourney in 2005.
Pahoa coach Eden Scanlan knows her school history. Back in the day, she was Eden Valentino and was a member of that historic 1997 squad as a junior. One of her teammates was Leimanu Naungayan, a setter, who later coached the Daggers.
The two made it their mission to become coaches who not only went to states but piloted their Daggers there as well. When Naungayan stepped down, Scanlan, in her fifth year, took over. On her staff are two assistants with state playing experience: former Kamehameha standouts Kanoe Salazar (2011 graduate) and Precious Salazar (2007 graduate), who played college ball at Tennessee State.
“Leimanu was the setter who took us to states. I helped her coach and we wanted to take the team to states,” Scanlan said. “That was always our goal. That was the reason I started coaching. We wanted to help build the team to that goal.”
There’s a different atmosphere at Pahoa, after Maxine Block pounded 16 kills and served four aces to spark the charge Wednesday night. The team’s enthusiasm filled the Daggers gym.
It’s not every day the Daggers reach the BIIF semifinals with a state berth dangling as a carrot.
“We’ve never been in this situation,” Scanlan said. “Since we won, we’ve been hungry. We want to play on Friday. We’re motivated.
“When we played Kona, our inexperience killed us. We made more errors, on our serves, hit out or into the net. When we played Ka‘u, Maxine was injured and only played in the front row. We struggled against Kama Fujikawa. She was the one getting through our blocks. If we play Ka‘u, it would be a good game for third place.”
The 5-foot-9 Block landed on the All-BIIF second team at middle blocker last season. Setter/outside hitter Christine Colobong received honorable mention. The two are key starters along with another fellow senior in libero Dely Laguardia.
“Christine, Dely and I have been playing together since the eighth grade,” Block said. “That’s a lot of playing time. We’re better gelled from playing together so long.”
Next season, the Daggers will also lose right-side hitter Maya Secola, who had two kills and three aces against Kohala. Secola, from Hawaii Academy of Arts & Science, will play her senior year at the neighbor charter school in its varsity debut 2014 season.
But the window won’t be closed for the Daggers, who have promising youth in freshman setter Daecee Subia, who plays club ball for Gail Rosehill’s Piopio team. Erleen Oguma, a junior middle, is another weapon. She had 11 kills and five aces against the Cowgirls, who last went to states in 1999.
“Our team strength is our consistency. We’re definitely more consistent than the past year,” Block said. “Our teamwork is really good. We all love each other like a family. So that’s important. If you don’t have a foundation, there’s nothing to build on it.
“Our freshman has been remarkable. Daecee is only 5 feet 3, but she has amazing hops and her contribution to our team has been crucial. She often gets overlooked since she’s a freshman, but she’s the epitome of consistency. She’s got a killer jump-float and delivers every time. She’s got really good ball-handling.”
The Trojans have two key senior starters in Toni Beck and Fujikawa. The two outside hitters made the All-BIIF second team last year. Junior setter Kerri Domondon was a first-team pick.
Block, a HAAS student, knows the deal with windows and how fast they close. She’s been playing volleyball at Pahoa since she was a freshman. She’s never been so close to states.
“We’re totally aware we have the best chance to reach states in a long time,” she said. “Our team wants to take it. Our attitude is, ‘Let’s take this dream. We’ve waited long enough.’ “That’s how we feel about it. We’re hungry for this.”