KAILUA-KONA — They played each other in their season-opener back on March 1, a match that for all intents and purposes put an early end to the drama in Division I.
The Big Island Interscholastic Federation volleyball semifinals weren’t much different. As expected, Kamehameha and Waiakea — two teams with a combined one loss between them — easily advanced into today’s 7 p.m. final at Kealakehe High.
“This is the game,” Waiakea’s Mamane Namahoe said. “This is win or lose right here. We’re all ready for it.”
Waiakea cruised past Hilo 25-13, 25-19, 25-16 on Friday night behind behind a bevy of firepower. Kamahao Paio posted 11 kills and Namahoe contributed nine in a victory ensuring Waiakea (11-1) will join Kamehameha at the Hawaii High School Athletic Association tournament.
And after a season’s worth of BIIF appetizers, Waiakea is ready for another main course.
“I really don’t want to discredit any of the teams that we played,” Waiakea coach Ecko Osorio said. “It’s hard to get them fired up day in and day out. It’s almost like you keep referring to Kamehameha and Hilo.”
For Kamehameha’s part, Evan Enriques served eight aces and Isaiah Laeha put down 10 kills in a 25-8, 25-12, 25-22 victory against Kealakehe in the early semifinal.
Kamehameha (12-0) relegated Waiakea to runner-up status with a sweep at the beginning of the regular season, but Waiakea beat its rival 2-1 in the semifinals of a tournament on Oahu earlier this month, avenging a loss in pool play.
“I think for the most part they’re starting to trust reach other and they’re starting to make the routine plays look routine,” Osorio said. “Communication is paying off. Definitely touching the ball a lot at the net and our offense has improved a lot.”
Paio and Namahoe were the mainstays in the attack against the Vikings, but Dillon Rellez tacked on six kills and Kamalu Kaaa added five kills and six digs.
“Keanu Esser, our setter, and Dillon are the quarterbacks of our team,” Namahoe said. “Our setter, you don’t see it, but he runs it.”
The senior outside hitter didn’t play in the win on Oahu against Kamehameha, but he sure remembers the way Waiakea opened the season.
“We’ve progressed drastically. We started at a low level and played like real junk,” Namahoe said. “From then, day in and day out in practice, hard sweats. We really want another BIIF title.”
A.J. Matsumoto and Kaululaau Ontai each recorded four kills and Sione Atuekaho posted four blocks for the Vikings, who finished 9-3. Two losses were to Waiakea and the other was to Kamehameha.
Hilo was able to hang around for a bit in the second and third sets, but when Waiakea wasn’t overpowering at the net, it was rattling off 11 service aces to keep at a distance. Namahoe served five, including three straight early in Game 3, and Bronson Napoleon compiled three.
Waiakea closed the match on a 10-1 run.
Each of the four semifinals on the day were sweeps, and the last one was moving along at a brisk pace just like the rest until play was stopped in the second set so paramedics could attend to a fan in stands. It turned out to be Paio’s sister, who had fainted.
“It just made me focus more,” Paio said.
That focus, no doubt, will carry over to today.
For Kamehameha on Friday, Hanale Lee Loy compiled five kills, Enriques finished with a team-high seven digs, and Chase Tanaka had five digs.
The season is over for the Waveriders (6-6).