A hometown team with homegrown products needed a two-for-one deal, but finally captured the coveted men’s AA title at the 57th annual Haili Volleyball Tournament on Saturday at Afook-Chinen Civic.
Culture Club, powered by Ikaika Marzo and Andrew Dunn, defeated Oahu’s Leviticus 24-26, 19-25, 25-12 to capture the men’s AA championship, wiping out the asterisk of 2012.
That year, Hilo’s Hemolele, with Marzo and Dunn and the help of players from Oahu’s Quiksets, beat RZN, another Oahu club, to pocket the men’s AA championship.
Longtime powerhouse Kailua, an Oahu squad stacked with former University of Hawaii players, didn’t enter in 2012 and this year, too, instead heading to the USA open national championships, which will be held in May in Arizona.
At first glance, Leviticus should have won the three-set match. The Oahu team took the championship final in two games. But a sudden-death match was in play because Culture Club earlier won the double-elimination round-robin.
That two-for-one deal worked out well for Culture Club, which had a roster of eight players, including seven from the Big Island. Outside hitter Michael Naki, who had eight kills, is from California.
Dunn, a 2005 Waiakea graduate, slammed 11 kills, including five in the final set, while Marzo, a 2002 Pahoa graduate, had seven kills. Josh Mason, a former Christian Liberty standout, had seven kills.
Leviticus middle blocker James Butler was a big-time 6-foot-4 hitting terror and finished with a match-high 17 kills, including six in the last set. Harold Kaiwi, a much smaller middle, added 10 kills.
The Oahu team’s passing was pretty smooth, but Elliot Chun-Dela Cruz’ setting polished anything sent his way, often giving his hitters one-on-one looks. No surprise, he was named the most valuable player.
Marzo was named the most outstanding player. However, he had zero kills but several blocks in the final game. If Dunn were a lawyer, he could file an appeal on that award.
That would never happen, of course. The two are volleyball brothers. Marzo was Pahoa’s coach from 2006 to ‘12 and Dunn was an assistant. They coached the Daggers to a runner-up finish to Seabury Hall at the Hawaii High School Athletic Association Division II state tournament in 2010.
But of all the Haili tournaments they’ve played in, this year was the most special. It had nothing to do with the homegrown title. They played in memory of Wayne Bidal, the Pahoa coach in 2013, who passed away due to a heart attack last August.
In his only season, Bidal coached the Daggers to the Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division II title last year. Pahoa, with six senior starters, finished second to Hawaii Baptist at the state tournament.
“The win feels good. Our blocking did really well, and we had good chemistry,” Dunn said. “But me and Ikaika played for Wayne Bidal.”
Marzo grew up watching Bidal play for Waiakea in the good, old BIIF days in the early 1990s.
“When I was a little kid, he played at Waiakea, and he helped out at Pahoa,” Marzo said. “He was from the Keaau-Pahoa side and he was a kind guy with the biggest heart.”
Like his good friend Dunn, Marzo enjoyed Culture Club’s team chemistry.
“I didn’t know we would play for the championship,” Marzo said. “But the thing about the team was we all decided to come out and have as much fun as possible.”
In the first two games, it didn’t appear Marzo and friends were having a whole lot of fun. Butler, Kaiwi and Louis Mafua, who had seven kills, including five in the first set, were teeing off. Culture Club, also the name for singer Boy George’s band, was hitting flat notes.
Then in the final set, it was “Karma Chameleon” time. Leviticus changed colors and went from hot to cold, misfiring for 16 hitting errors, including its last four swings. Culture Club didn’t really need to do much, but Dunn pounded down five kills anyway.
“This team was all about having fun, and the outcome was first place,” Marzo said.
In the women’s AA final, Hawaiian Style defeated Sawaiians 25-22 in a sudden-death game, after Sawaiians earlier won 18-25, 25-10, 18-16 in the double-elimination championship round.