Wednesday | October 18, 2017
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BIIF volleyball: Swept by Kamehameha, Konawaena remains a work-in-progress

KEAAU — Konawaena built its dynasty on the volleyball court around a bunch of sisters: Chanelle, Celena Jane, and Cherilyn Molina, and McKenna and McKayla Ventura.

It’s been an incredible run that started in 2012 when Chanelle Molina and McKenna Ventura were freshmen. That year, the Wildcats finished as the BIIF Division II runner-up, and the good times were just getting started.

The next season, Celena Jane Molina and her soft-setting hands came aboard, and Konawaena won the first of back-to-back HHSAA championships, not to mention starting the run of four straight BIIF titles.

It’s a much different team now for coach Ainsley Keawekane with Cherilyn Molina and McKayla Ventura the last of the sisters. For years, Keawekane fortified his roster with ball-control artists from his feeder program, Hoopa Hawaii VBC, his club team.

On Saturday, Kamehameha swept the Wildcats 25-18, 25-21, 25-16 in a BIIF match at Koaia Gym, where their defense got a hard lesson on closing blocking holes and scrambling during transition plays.

When the ball went back-and-forth during rallies, either short or long ones, the Warriors had better ball-control and teed off, especially 6-foot sophomore Nani Spaar, who hit over the block, had 15 kills and looked pretty much unstoppable.

One play in particular during Game 1 summed up Spaar’s uncanny court vision. She was on the left post, Konawaena had the line covered, and libero Kawehilani Lumwon-Spinoza was in a middle-up perimeter, half-circle spot to defend a cross-court shot.

It was perfect defensive positioning. But Spaar destroyed it with her hitting technique. She took something off her fastball, put top-spin on it and the ball found the far cross-court corner for a 20-16 cushion and a beauty of a shot.

Tiani Bello brought her rocket right arm and smashed eight kills. Mahina Kenoi added five kills, all in the third set. Seizen Alameda racked up 15 digs in two games for the Warriors (11-1), who had 25 unforced errors, including 11 in the first set.

That’s a lot of free points in Game 1 for the grateful visitors, who remained competitive without doing much. On the bright side, maybe Kamehameha was getting its unforced errors out the way before its monster showdown against Hilo (11-1) on Thursday at the Vikings Gym.

Molina and Malie Grace each had eight kills while Ventura and setter/hitter Anaselita Taetuna had four kills each for the Wildcats (5-7), who had 26 giveaway points, including 10 in the last set.

It was quite an achievement for Taetuna to produce four kills. The Konawaena senior stands 5 feet 3 with her shoes on. And the highlight of the match featured the smallest player (Taetuna) winning a battle at the net against the tallest (Spaar).

In the third set, a ball was floating at the top of the net. Taetuna launched herself airborne and pushed the ball past Spaar’s block. Kamehameha won the point for a 9-4 lead, but the stunned crowd appreciated the effort and applauded.

“She’s small but has good hops,” Keawekane said. “She’s a firecracker and an inspiration to the team.”

But back to the state of the Wildcats, who have a few measuring stick matches left on their schedule. There’s a rematch with Hawaii Prep on Thursday, Oct. 5 at home, another home date against Hilo on Tuesday, Oct. 10, and a regular-season finale visit at Waiakea on Friday, Oct. 13.

“We’re rebuilding,” said Keawekane, who was asked the difference between previous editions. “It’s definitely confidence. But the team is willing to learn. That’s what I like.

“In the first set, we had a lot of confidence, but we let down in the third set. We’ve got to stay confident, then good things can happen.”

All dynasties end, something that BIIF history informs every so often. The greatest dynasty in league history was the HPA boys cross country team, which pocketed 20 straight BIIF titles. That run in the record books ended in 2000.

It’s more likely than not that Konawaena and HPA will meet for the BIIF Division II championship. After all, coach Sharon Peterson’s Ka Makani have finished as the runner-up the last three years. HPA swept the Wildcats in three sets on Sept. 7 at Castle Gym.

However, Molina didn’t play. She was on her visiting trip to Washington State, where sisters Chanelle and Celena Jane are on the basketball team, which starts its season Nov. 10 at UC Davis. Celena Jane is not on the Wazzu volleyball team, which returns its top two setters.

The Wildcats are a mix of old and young with senior starters Molina, Ventura, and Taetuna, and juniors Erin Kaimuloa-Bates, a middle blocker, and Lumwon-Spinoza. Grace and Kehau Faleofa are sophomores.

Keawekane likes the promise of Grace and Faleofa. He views them as the next nucleus after the last two sisters depart. Grace, a middle/hitter, is a versatile attacker, and Faleofa, a middle, puts up a tough block.

“I can’t wait to see Grace next year and as a senior, and Kehau, too,” Keawekane said. “They’re going to be exceptional for Konawaena.

“Cherilyn and McKayla have played in their sisters’ shadow. When they look around, there’s nobody there. It’s their time to lead.”

 

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