Sunday | December 17, 2017
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BIIF volleyball: Libero does the dirty work for Hilo

Hilo libero Jamie Chun didn’t rack up a ton of digs in a five-set win over Waiakea in a critical BIIF volleyball showdown, but she didn’t need to.

What the Vikings needed most was someone to stabilize their serve-receive passing and provide the first vital link in the passer-to-setter-to-hitter connection.

Hilo got the job done and prevailed over Waiakea 19-25, 25-21, 10-25, 25-18, 15-6 in a Division I entertaining thriller on Thursday night at the Warriors Gym.

A week earlier, Kamehameha ripped 16 aces and upset Hilo in four sets to turn the Division I race into an unpredictable dogfight.

Waiakea followed Kamehameha’s strategy and, from the service line, fired bullets at Hilo, which had moments of wobbly passing and setters Kailee Kurokawa and Makena Ahuna scrambling to field balls.

But the Viks went searching in the Lost and Found Department and discovered their serve-receive passing just in time as the Warriors grabbed a 2-1 set lead.

“The girls fought hard in the end. We made sure to clean up our passes in order for our setters to give our hitters a good set,” Hilo coach Drew Fernandez said. “Chun stepped up for us. She was putting up passes, and touching and digging balls that made her all-around game exciting.”

Chun had 16 digs, which gave the defending BIIF champs a chance to reset the offense and hit back. The Viks finished with 36 kills; Waiakea had 42.

Earlier in the match, Hilo bumped over too many free balls or couldn’t take healthy swings. When it was Waiakea’s turn to run its offense, Kayla Kahauolopua had her hammer working and finished with a match-high 23 kills.

Coaches often talk about the first two touches of the ball — serve-receive passing and serving — as the most important bread-and-butter basics.

The Vikings were able to neutralize Waiakea’s scoring runs and turn the tables with tough serves of their own.

Hilo had four aces with two from Lexi Paglinawan, including match point, against five service errors. The Warriors had three aces and seven service errors.

Paglinawan is a deceptive tough server. She doesn’t smoke her jump serves. But she puts enough top-spin to make the ball sink like a stone.

The 5-foot-5 senior outside hitter is one of the league’s most creative shot-makers with her full package of shots and a polished passer as well.

“Lexi is one of the toughest servers on our team,” Fernandez said. “Lexi was doing good on passing, and that’s what I stress the most to the girls. Lexi did step up with her passing, but there were others that stepped up as well.”

Hilo’s other senior outside hitter, Kawai Ua, has built her reputation as one of the league’s best little giants.

For history’s sake, the league’s best ever little giant was 2004 St. Joseph graduate and high-jumping middle blocker Lindsey Lee, who stood 5-5 and played Division I ball at Fairfield in Connecticut.

As if on cue, the 5-6 Ua plays big when her team needs her the most. She cranked three of her 10 kills in the fifth set. Paglinawan added to the 1-2 punch with seven kills, including two in Game 5. Right-side hitter Taina Leao added balance with seven kills.

Ua pulverized a kill to give Hilo a 13-6 lead. Had there been a radar gun present, that fastball would have clocked as the highest velocity hit of the night.

It just seems whenever the two crosstown rivals get together Ua and Waiakea libero Jordyn Hayashi, who had an amazing 43 digs, remind everyone why they’re the reigning BIIF co-players of the year.

In the first meeting, Ua had a match-high 20 kills and Hayashi a match-high 20 digs in Hilo’s four-set victory at the Vikings Gym back in late August.

Fernandez appreciates Ua’s other traits as well.

“Kawai’s energy is what is good,” he said. “She is the one who is the most vocal, and she started passing good balls and then her hitting started to come through.”

Chun, who plays club ball for coach Jodie Kalawe’s Haili Jrs., is just a sophomore and was on the junior varsity last season.

She missed the party last year when the Vikings won their first BIIF Division I title since 2001, before state classification started in 2005. They won the D-II crown from 2007 to ’09.

Since the league’s powerhouse trio of Hilo, Kamehameha, and Waiakea started playing on the D-I level together in 2010, this season appears to have the most parity.

Only two teams earn berths to the HHSAA tournament. That’s why the BIIF regular season title, which includes the first state spot, is so crucial.

If two teams are tied for first place, both state berths will be available in the BIIF playoffs. However, the key is to be the No. 1 seed and not face someone from the powerhouse trio company.

Tiebreaker procedures include head-to-head results and in matches played between teams: total set differential, total point differential, fewest points allowed, and fewest points allowed throughout entire BIIF season.

Mindful of the tiebreaker procedures, sometimes, coaches, from all sports, won’t play their backups in battles against other top teams.

Hilo (11-1) is a leg up on Waiakea (10-2). Kamehameha (10-1) hosts Konawaena (5-6) on Saturday.

The Vikings likely have an elephant’s memory in the loss to Kamehameha, especially with those 16 aces surrendered still stinging. The rematch is next Thursday at the Vikings Gym.

“Every team is in the fight,” Fernandez said. “It is definitely anyone’s game. It will come down to who wants it more.”

Good energy always plays a part but so does stabilized serve-receive passing, and the Vikings can tip their hat to Chun for that.


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