He’s a smart hitter and a fundamentally sound all-around player, loves volleyball, and grew up in Pahala with the well-known last name of Enriques.
That description could fit any of Kamehameha coach Guy Enriques’ sons — Evan, Emmett or twins Addie and Avery.
But none has made history like Kai Enriques, a first cousin of the four volleyball brothers. The Ka‘u junior was a sparkplug on his school’s first Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division II championship team.
The 5-foot-9 Trojan outside hitter was named the BIIF Division II Player of the Year, by the league’s coaches, joining Evan in accomplishment.
Kamehameha first captured a BIIF championship in 2005. But Evan’s accolades are unparalleled in league history with three consecutive BIIF Division I Player of the Year honors, and the All-State player of the year as a sophomore and senior.
Kai Enriques is joined on the first team by a pair of teammates: senior outside hitter Larry-Dan Al-Navarro and junior setter Brian Gascon, who was listed as an outside hitter.
Trojan senior middle blocker Chance Emmsley-Ah Yee and senior outside hitter Franklin Orcino received honorable mention.
BIIF runner-up Honokaa landed two players on the first team: senior outside hitter CJay Carvalho and senior setter Makana Loo. Hawaii Prep senior outside hitter Noah Schenk and Konawaena senior outside hitter Gabriel Trevino round out the team.
“I was surprised I got player of the year. There are a lot of good people and players in Division II,” Enriques said. “I’m really honored the coaches chose me. It means a lot, and it feels really good about how hard I’ve worked, and the people around me, people who put their time in and helped me along the way. I’m training right now with my club team.
“I just love volleyball. It’s my one sport and passion. I like playing with my friends and against good competition. I feel really good when I’m playing with all my cousins. It’s a family bonding thing. I’ve played with Emmett since I was about 12 years old. Everything I know I’ve learned from Uncle Guy and his training.”
Enriques is playing on his uncle’s Southside 17s club team with Gascon. They’ll compete in the USA Junior National Championships, which start June 30 in Houston. A few of the Kamehameha coach’s players, like libero Kekaulike Alameda and middle Hanale Lee Loy, are also on the 17s club.
Since he was 12 years old, Evan Enriques has played on Pono Maa’s Ka Ulukoa club team with Punahou senior-to-be Micah Maa and recent graduate Larry Tuileta. They’ll play in the Junior Nationals 18s division. Their club has won six titles.
On the Southside 17s team, Emmett Enriques provides the firepower, while cousin Kai offers a bit of everything as the second outside hitter. The club has finished fourth twice at nationals. Addie and Avery are on the 15s team.
“The thing that Evan talks about a lot is mental focus,” Kai said. “That’s helped me a lot. It’s visualizing in general, taking mental reps about what I’m going to do. It’s really good fun playing with Emmett. He’s not only a good player, but I also look up to him.
“When we need a point, we all count on him as our big gun. I’ll try to bring whatever the team needs. If they need a setter, I can set. But I’m usually the other outside hitter with Emmett.”
The Trojans’ historic season was a work in progress. They were 5-6 after the regular season, behind Honokaa (7-4) and defending BIIF champion HPA (6-5). But Ka‘u got hot at the right time.
In the BIIF championship, Enriques slammed a match-high 19 kills as Ka‘u defeated Honokaa in five sets. That brought back memories of 2012, when the Trojan girls team took the BIIF title. Enriques was then a statistician.
Ka‘u reached the Hawaii High School Athletic Association Division II tournament for the first time since 2005. The Trojans lost to Campbell in a five-set state-play in game in 2013.
In the state quarterfinals, Enriques had a game to remember. He smashed 22 kills as the Trojans rallied to defeat Aiea in five sets. He was equally productive in a three-set semifinal loss to Seabury Hall with a match-high 18 kills.
The last game of the season was a bit of a bummer. Honokaa beat Ka‘u for third place at states, and won the season series 2-1. But Kai Enriques has nothing but good memories from his historic BIIF championship junior season.
“I was on stats for the girls team that went to states in 2012. That was really fun, and that was my goal, to go to states, and we made it,” he said. “The team’s goals were to make it to BIIFs, win a banner and go to states. We accomplished our goals as a team.
“We’re a really small team. But we had to stick together, play as a team and be positive. That thing that sticks out about Ka‘u is we come from a small place (high school student enrollment of 252), but inside there we have people who really stand out.”