The first set was easy, then Ecko Osorio said, Waiakea got “goofy.”
Osorio could smile later, especially after the Warriors boys volleyball team showed him something new: the ability to come from behind.
Kamahao Paio swatted 18 kills and Mamane Namahoe compiled 13 in the Warriors’ 25-16, 25-22, 25-23 victory Friday night against Kalaheo in the first round of Hawaii High School Athletic Association tournament at Punahou School in Honolulu.
Big Island Interscholastic Federation runner-up Waiakea (12-2) will face the two-time defending state champion Buffanblu, the top seed, on their home floor at 3 p.m. today for a berth in the semifinals.
“If we’re in the match and it’s close, we’re going to play well,” Osorio said.
He said Waiakea had the tendency to lose focus when it fell behind this season — both losses were sweeps against Kamehameha-Hawaii — but that wasn’t the case Friday as the Warriors battled back from 20-15 deficits in the second and third set.
“We were able to regroup and claw our way back,” Osorio said.
Waiakea responded with a 6-0 spurt in Game 2, and it won seven of the last eight points of Game 3 to put away the match.
For much of the evening, Waiakea rode senior outside hitters Paio (.433 attack percentage), Namahoe (.357, 15 digs) and Dillon Rellez (nine kills, .389, 17 assists). Senior setter Keanu Esser posted 24 assists.
“We did a lot of good things offensively and we’re balanced,” Osorio said. “We weren’t as strong defensively.”
The Warriors outhit the Mustangs (12-4) of the Oahu Interscholastic Association .317-.115, overcoming 13 service errors.
Paio and Esser each finished with seven digs, and Dayton Tioganco had six.
Nala Singlehurst and Kainoa Peterson each recorded 10 kills for Kalaheo.
Kamehameha-Kapalama def. Kahuku 25-14, 25-18, 25-23: Kaehu Kaaa ripped 15 kills at Kalani High as the Warriors earned a trip to the Big Island.
At 3 p.m. today at Koaia Gym in Keaau, the Oahu Warriors will face BIIF champion Kamehameha-Hawaii (13-0) for a spot in the semifinals.