Monday | November 20, 2017
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BIIF volleyball playoffs: Waiakea uses new killjoy to oust Kamehameha

Waiakea senior Jazz Alston usually serves background music on the volleyball court, functioning as a mobile blocker and down-the-list offensive option. 

But she made the loudest noise and powered Waiakea over Kamehameha 25-22, 18-25, 25-18, 25-21 in the BIIF Division I semifinals on Tuesday night at the Warriors Gym, where long rallies and loads of energy came along for the ride.

In the other Division I semifinal, Hilo defeated Kealakehe 20-25, 25-21, 25-14, 25-17 at the Vikings Gym, eliminating the Waveriders.

That locked up an HHSAA tournament berth for Waiakea (15-2), which plays Hilo (16-1) for the BIIF Division I title at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Warriors Gym.

The season is over for Kamehameha (13-4), which loses six senior starters in libero Seizen Alameda, setters Kiani Troy and Summer Ah Choy, middles Keane Farias and Tehani Kupahu-Canon, and opposite Makenna Mahuna.

It’s also the second straight year the visiting Warriors will sit at home for states, where sophomore standout hitters Nani Spaar and Tiani Bello have yet to showcase themselves.

Alston led the offensive charge with 16 kills while Kayla Kahauolopua followed with 15 kills, and Melina Devela had 14 kills.

“I’ve never led the team in kills,” Alston said. “It feels pretty good. We all worked really hard, and we’re excited to play Hilo. Our energy was up, and we stayed together.”

Waiakea’s defense was led by libero Jordyn Hayashi, who had 22 digs, a handful of the entertaining, diving variety. Makena Hanle and Darlyn Okinaka also contributed to the steady back-row play and serve-receive passing.

Spaar hit smart, found holes and finished with a match-high 17 kills while Bello rifled down 10 kills, and Farias was a presence in the middle with nine kills.

Across the board, Waiakea had better stats, including more kills and fewer unforced errors (53-34 to 42-37), aces to service errors (6-8 to 3-9), and blocks (7 to 3).

Kamehameha’s game plan was a simple one: serve tough to get Waiakea out of system and setter Angel Navor scrambling to put up sets.

Of the powerhouse trio among Hilo, Kamehameha, and Waiakea, Kamehameha is the best in the business at wrecking havoc from the service line. (The Warriors ripped 16 aces to hand Hilo its only loss of the season in four sets.)

On the flip side of the coin, Waiakea’s serve-receive passing is usually in good hands with Hayashi, who gives Navor options to find her weapons like hitter Kahauolopua or middles Devela or Alston.

For most of the night, thanks to Hayashi, Navor was setting balls inside the 10-foot line while Troy and Ah Choy had a workout running around to give their hitters swings.

Waiakea fed Kamehameha a taste of its own medicine. The host Warriors served tough in their own way. They don’t crank their serves but hit it deep to make the passers back up, which worked just as fine as fastball serves.

In the 25-22 first set, Navor did a good job finding her hot hitters. Alston had a ton of one-on-one shots and smashed six kills. Her middle-hitting partner, Devela, added three kills.

Spaar pounded six kills, but Kamehameha hurt itself with 11 unforced errors, including three crucial service errors, and struggled with its serve-receive passing. Waiakea had seven giveaway points.

It felt like moment and rhythm were morphed into a ping pong ball that kept going back and forth.

In the 25-18 second set, it was Waiakea’s turn to offer the opposition free points. The host Warriors had 13 unforced errors; Kamehameha cleaned up and had just eight giveaway points.

The key for Kamehameha was a pair of mini-runs of six and five points, each powered by Waiakea’s giveaway points.

Of the 11 points, six were from unforced errors and another was an ace. That’s seven points the easy way, and Kamehameha didn’t have to work hard at all.

Then Waiakea grabbed the momentum in Game 3 and never let it go.

Basically, Kahauolopua was a hitting terror down the stretch. She had three kills through the first two sets but pounded seven in Game 3.

Kahauolopua didn’t need her roll or tip shots because she was swinging for the fences. The ball likely had a headache because she kept clobbering rockets all over the place.

In the fourth set, Waiakea threw a block party featuring Alston and Navor. They combined for three roofs during a seven-point run that turned a 19-16 deficit into a 23-19 lead.

For the sweet music of Jazz, Alston found the floor for a 24-21 advantage and her team-leading 16th kill. Then Kahauolopua put away match point.

It was also a strong night for the unsung standouts. Besides Hanale and Okinaka, Cadelynn Kahauolopua played all six rotations, passed, blocked and had two kills. Cary Catrett, who had three kills, filled in as a hitter to shoulder the load from the two Kahauolopua sisters.

The Warriors are really built around Hayashi and Kayla Kahauolopua, who’s the serving target for every team. The opposition wants to make her work overtime, and Kamehameha did an A+ job with that.

“What I love about Titi (Kayla’s nickname) is from the beginning of the year she’s worked on her serve-receive, and she’s on point. She knew other teams would serve her,” Waiakea coach Ashley Hanohano said. “She has to pass in serve-receive, come out swinging and play defense. She’s great as a blocker as well.”

Titi is thinking big. She has her eye on the BIIF championship. Hilo beat Waiakea twice during the regular season, but the Warriors are riding a wave of rhythm and momentum.

“I think we’re ready. It’s my senior year, might as well go down swinging,” said Kahauolopua, who made sure to give a shoutout to Alston. “I loved the way she stepped up. She was strong in the middle.”

That’s music to the ears of Alston and the rest of the Warriors.

 

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