PAHOA — Most of the players on the Konawaena boys volleyball team are probably unaware of the school’s Big Island Interscholastic Federation history.
That’s because the Wildcats don’t have much of one, at least in the last two decades. But if Gabriel Trevino keeps getting clean swings, that may change sometime soon.
Kona last won the BIIF championship in 1998, long before statewide classification started in 2005. That was something of a magical season because both the boys and girls won league titles.
The girls program, under coach Ainlsey Keawekane, has reached the pinnacle. The Wildcats pocketed the BIIF title and Hawaii High School Athletic Association Division II state championship last season. They’ve been to states three straight years.
The boys, under first-year coach Keawekane, are still searching for that state spot. But if there’s any year for the Wildcats to crack through, now is a good time in a season of parity. And Saturday was proof of that.
Kona rode the right arm of Trevino, who slammed 28 kills, and defeated Pahoa 20-25, 25-21, 18-25, 28-26, 15-9 in a BIIF Division II showdown at the Daggers Gym, throwing a huge dose of suspense into the league standings.
“Gabe’s our captain and most experienced player and controls the team points-wise,” said Kona assistant Joseph Wong, filling in for Keawekane, who had a family affair on Maui. “We really played with heart and had a drive to finish. We’ve struggled with that the whole season.
“Other than Trevino and Kalalena Santiago (both on Keawekane’s Hoopa club team), everyone else is in their first year. We’ve gone through some trials and tribulations this year.”
Santiago and Anthony Ward added 11 kills each for the Wildcats (3-7), who also beat BIIF first-timer Ke Kula O Ehunuikaimalino and Keaau.
“I’ve had a higher kill total before, but 28 is still pretty high,” Trevino said. “We’ve just got to keep pushing. We really needed to pull out this one to try and get seeded for the playoffs. Everybody was really relaxed, we talked things out and played with heart.”
Kona has lost to Honokaa, Hawaii Prep, Hilo, Kohala, Waiakea, Ka‘u and Kealakehe. The ‘Cats host Kamehameha on Monday, April 14.
Virgil Stinnett slammed 15 kills, Torrell Thomas 11 and Travis Carvalho had six kills to lead the Daggers (2-5), who topped Ehunui and Ka‘u in five at home. They’ve lost to HPA, Hilo, Kamehameha and Waiakea.
The BIIF regular-season champion earns the first berth to the Division II state tournament. The other state berth is available in the four-team BIIF playoffs.
The first tiebreaker for the BIIF regular-season title or last playoff spot is head-to-head. In something of a merry-go-round: Kona holds the tiebreaker over Pahoa; Pahoa holds the edge over Ka‘u; Ka‘u holds the tiebreaker over Kona.
In Game 4, the Wildcats trailed 23-19, two points away from going home. Then it got worse when a hitting error dropped them into a 24-22 deficit.
But the hitting error bug flew across the net, and the Daggers had three straight attacking miscues. That tied it 25-25. Trevino smashed two of his 10 kills, and Troy Aukai served an ace to force a fifth set.
In Game 5, Santiago and Ward combined for a pair of blocks to help Kona to a 10-8 lead. On the last play, Trevino stood flat-footed and lobbed a soft shot that found the corner for match point.
At 6 feet 1, Trevino is the same height as his brother Dominick Trevino, a 2011 Kealakehe graduate, who played football at Valpariso. Unlike his brother, the senior Wildcat prefers volleyball, even though he played football and basketball at Kona.
“Volleyball is my strongest sport,” Trevino said. “It feels the most natural to me.”
Last season, he landed on the All-BIIF Division II first team at outside hitter. All of the other members are gone. Kama Paio, who was at HPA, transferred to Division I Waiakea.
Trevino was mostly in the middle against Pahoa, but took swings from the outside. He also showed an all-around package of skills, including a bullet jump-serve, steady passing and a nose for blocking.
He hasn’t picked out a college yet. It’s rare to find a 6-1 middle or even an outside hitter that size on the collegiate level. But he’s sharpened his skills with Hoopa, especially his passing.
“I think my passing is pretty good,” he said. “You can’t set without a pass. You can’t get a hit without a set. Everything starts with a pass. Our goal is we want to pull it out in BIIFs.”