By BILL O’REAR
Tribune-Herald sports editor
KEAAU — Libero Anthony Mesa-Serrano provided the spark and his hustling teammates responded with a dominating performance as Pahoa swept Konawaena 25-17, 25-13, 25-17 in a Division II boys volleyball semifinal match on Friday.
In the other Big Island Interscholastic Federation D-II semifinal at Kamehameha-Hawaii’s Koaia Gym, fourth-seeded Ka’u shocked top-seeded Hawaii Preparatory Academy 13-25, 25-15, 25-19, 16-25, 15-10.
In today’s D-II final, third-seeded Pahoa (10-5) plays Ka’u (8-7) at 5:30 p.m. The champion earns the BIIF No. 1 seed in the upcoming state D-II tournament on Oahu. The loser will host Campbell of the Oahu Interscholastic Association at 4 p.m. Monday in a play-in match for the final state tournament berth.
Mesa-Serrano, a 5-foot-9 senior, fueled a dig-happy defense that picked up any Wildcat spikes or dinks that managed to get over or around a potent Pahoa block. And once Mesa-Serrano or one of his teammates made a good pass, high-risers Nick Fisher, Caleb Woo-O’Brien, Jarrett Kamaka or Joseph Lefiti ripped shots against the smaller opponents.
“If Anthony plays well, everything else seems to fall into place,” Pahoa head coach Wayne Bidal said. “He’s our captain, our team leader.
“Today, our guys were ready to play. They played relaxed and really wanted it. Our middles played really well and this was redemption for last Saturday (a five-set loss to Konawaena in Waimea).”
Konawaena, under head coach Kahinu Lee, started strong, grabbing momentum in Game 1 . The Wildcats led 12-9 before the Daggers settled in and took over. Lefiti and Isaac Ekau led a 7-0 run as Pahoa built a 21-14 advantage. Then the Daggers closed out the game with Lefiti and Fisher, both talented seniors, leading the way in a 25-17 win.
In Game 2, the Pahoa offense continued to click, and Mesa-Serrano & Co. raced to a 19-10 lead. Then after a Wildcats’ mini-rally, the Daggers finished off the game with Mesa-Serrano drilling an ace on the final point.
In Game 3, with a chance to play in the BIIF final on the line, Pahoa streaked to a 12-2 lead, using an inspired defense, balanced attack and strong serving. But Konawaena dug deep and closed to within 23-16 late in the match.
Then the 6-1 Woo-O’Brien, who had eight kills in Game 3, hammered two kills and a Daggers error finished off he sweep, 25-17.
Woo-O’Brien and Fished each had 12 kills to lead the Pahoa attack. Ekau had six and the soft-handed Lefiti, a 5-10 setter, had five kills, an ace and a bundle of assists. Kamaka had six kills and a match-high three aces.
Mesa-Serrano called the impressive victory over dangerous Konawaena “the best win of the season” so far.
“We really wanted it today,” he said. “It was revenge from last Saturday and everyone meshed together as a team. We talked about that before the match, to play as one and keep momentum going.
“But give Konawaena credit. They’re a tough team and gave us a battle.”
Gabriel Trevino, a 6-1 junior, led the Wildcats with eight kills and senior Kameron Freitas had six kills.
Bidal praised Ka’u’s hustling play in its upset over HPA.
“It’s going to be a good match,” the Pahoa coach said. “We’re going to have to bring our A game. Ka’u is a very good team and we’re going to have to play really well to win. It went five games the last time we played and we were fortunate to win.”
HPA (12-3) is the BIIF’s No. 2 seed in the state D-II tourney. Konawaena ended its season with a 9-6 record.