Thursday | December 14, 2017
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Kayla the great: Kahauolopua carries Waiakea to BIIF D-I volleyball crown

Waiakea was in the worst spot possible on the volleyball court against Hilo — stuck in an 0-2 hole and not looking too good, hitting .000 and negative .029 in the first two sets, respectively.

But the Warriors were built to run marathons, and senior outside hitter Kayla Kahauolopua has a habit of becoming something great and doing her best work down the stretch.

The 5-foot-8 lightning bolt smoked 19 of her 34 kills in the last two sets to spark Waiakea over Hilo 20-25, 20-25, 25-20, 26-24, 16-14 for an unlikely BIIF Division I championship on Thursday night at the Warriors Gym.

Hilo (16-2) will host Kahuku of the OIA in an HHSAA play-in match at 4 p.m. Monday at the Vikings Gym.

No. 4 seed Waiakea (16-2) will play the Kapolei-Farrington winner in the state quarterfinals at 5 p.m. Thursday at McKinley High’s gym on Oahu.

When BIIF fans think about crosstown rivalries, the first two schools to come to mind are Hilo and Waiakea. That definitely applies for baseball, where the Vikings and Warriors have met for the title the last nine years, but not necessarily for girls volleyball.

Hilo and Waiakea have clashed only three times for the BIIF crown over the last 25 years, in 1999 (Hilo), last year (Hilo) and this season (Waiakea).

Still, anytime they battle whether it’s in the regular season or for a title, there’s no shortage of electricity in the atmosphere. And it was a packed house at the Warriors Gym, where fans witnessed a comeback for the ages.

Kahauolopua mashed 34 kills on 74 swings with 14 errors for a solid .270 average, but it wasn’t easy. She had six kills in the first set, then three, six, 11, and eight kills, providing big points when everyone in the gym knew the ball was going to her.

Waiakea coach Ashley Hanohano pointed to conditioning and teamwork as two key intangibles. Her team looked energized late in the match, especially Kahauolopua, and had better ball-control.

“Titi is amazing. She’s, by far, one of the better players I’ve seen in a long time,” Hanohano said of Kahauolopua. You should see her at practice. Her work ethic is unbelievable. When she sprints, it looks like she’s floating.

“With our conditioning, we were able to last and endure. Toward the end, that saved us. Our serve-receive passing got better after the first two games. That’s where we lost a lot of points. But we’ve got teamwork. As a coach, that’s all you can ask for, to play as a team.”

One stat that always defines ball-control is assists, part of the direct link that goes from pass to set to kill. The Warriors had far more assists than the Viks, 61-48. Senior libero Jordyn Hayashi and setter Anela Navor often set up Kahauolopua.

“Jordyn made great passes. Anela made great sets, and that made my job easier,” Kahauolopua said. “When we were down 0-2, I knew we had the energy to fight. In the huddle, we would say, ‘Don’t give up. Fight for each other.’

“Jordan was amazing. I couldn’t have done it without her. She’s the last line of defense.”

Hayashi had a match-high 23 digs, Navor accounted for 47 assists, and Kahauolopua finished the job with hard shots. Navor also had 14 digs and Darlyn Okinaka added 11 digs.

Jazz Alston had 10 kills and Melina Devela added nine kills for the Warriors, who finished with a .112 hitting clip and outhit Hilo in Game 3, .216-.000, the turning point in the match.

Kawai Ua led Hilo with 12 kills but hit .053. Right behind were Lexi Paglinawan (10 kills, .122) and Taina Leao (eight kills, .150) for Hilo, which finished with a .115 hitting percentage.

In the fourth set, Kahauolopua got crazy hot and entertained the fans with her variety of shots. Sometimes, she would swing from off the right post and smash a cut shot that sliced to her right. That cut shot gave Waiakea a 24-23 lead.

Then she hammered consecutive kills to close the set, hitting a cross-court shot and a fastball down the line with enough velocity that the Viks couldn’t close their block in time.

In Game 5, Kahauolopua nailed five kills to carry Waiakea on her back for a 6-4 lead. Then she rotated to the back row, and Hilo made a six-point run to grab a 10-6 advantage.

The Warriors went into survival mode until Kahauolopua rotated to the front. When that happened, she drilled a line shot for a 12-12 tie. Later, she hit a ball flat-footed that somehow found the floor for a 15-14 lead.

On match point, Navor served, Hilo ran a clean play, and Devela got a block to close out the 2 1/2 hour marathon and start Waiakea’s celebration.

“It doesn’t feel real,” Kahauolopua said, amid the sea of exuberance everywhere she looked. “It paid off all that amount of work at practice and the conditioning. I loved the way we fought to the end.”


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