BIIF volleyball: St. Joseph rebuilds; Kohala returns key cogs

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Hawaii Tribune-Herald

Kohala senior CJ Carvalho kept serving aces on the volleyball court, and teammate Kiana Kauka was following suit against St. Joseph, which meant two things: easy points and fewer opportunities to take swings.

The Cowgirls could use all the reps they can handle because their school gym was shut down last season because of safety concerns. An assessment is scheduled for February. The team practices at the Hisaoka county gym.

The veteran Cowgirls relied on tough serves and just enough power hitting to defeat the inexperienced Cardinals 25-7, 25-9, 25-22 in a BIIF Division II match Saturday at Walter Victor Gym, where the drive to Hilo (1 hour, 50 minutes) took nearly twice as long as the sweep (59 minutes).

Carvalho finished with nine aces, Kauka had seven, Shania Fuertes and Zaz Matsu four each, and libero Anaiyah Tabiolo, Cheylin Imai, and Kaila Pasco two each for the Cowgirls (1-2).

That’s a total of 30 aces or 40 percent of Kohala’s 75 points. A barrage like that probably won’t happen against Konawaena, Hawaii Prep, or Honokaa, the other HHSAA teams along with Kohala from a year ago.

Last season was a significant one for the Cowgirls and the league. It was the first time since statewide classification started in 2005 that the BIIF had four D-II state qualifiers. It was also Kohala’s first state appearance since 1999.

“We were lucky. St. Joe is rebuilding,” Kohala coach Nick Lorenzo said of his team’s considerable ace delivery. “The feeling for a lot of the girls is they went to states last year, and hopefully the hunger is still there. We want to continue to climb and try to get better.”

Kohala returns all its starters from a year ago, including four seniors in Agbayani, Matsu, Tabiolo, and Angel Ramos, a middle blocker. The nucleus will still be tough next season with juniors Mikayla Kekoa, Fuertes, Imai, Kauka, and Gabby Tomas.

Imai, who doubles as the second setter with Agbayani, slammed 10 kills, Matsu had five, Tomas four, and Fuertes three kills against a Cardinal block that struggled to close holes.

Emma Faumuina, a junior middle and the only Cardinal with playing experience, had three kills and three aces while Mone Kudo added two kills.

“We put Emma in the middle in the front and back rows, so if there’s a mistake the ball will end up by her somehow,” St. Joseph coach Tim Waugh said. “It’s a rebuilding year for St. Joe. We’re lucky to have a team.

“We want to keep at it, keep the volleyball legacy alive. The Hanohanos (former coaches Rachelle and Tommy Hanohano) did well.”

St. Joseph lost five seniors to graduation and didn’t know if a team would be available until school started. There are five freshmen (Kyra Bockrath, Shannon Augustin, Jizelle Pacheco-Alcosiba, Chika Ota, and Keahaulani DeCourt) on a nine-player roster.

Kudo, fellow senior Kanna Amano, and Ota are all from Japan, living with host families. The school is always looking for additional host families, so if interested St. Joe would appreciate a call.

“Mone is one who speaks the most English, so we use her to translate,” said Waugh, who has a different title at family get-togethers: Uncle to the gridiron standouts.

His sister Melissa’s son is Kelii Montibon, a Kamehameha graduate, now playing football at Oregon State. His other sister Melanie’s son is Hilo senior running back Kahale Huddleston, whose dream school is Oregon State.

“Potentially, one cousin could be blocking for the other,” Waugh said. “Kahale is 5 feet 10, but I think he’ll grow more. Right now, he’s got a lot of lean muscle. That’s why he’s fast. Both of them are good kids. They have good temperaments.”

For the most part, the match had a predictable pattern.

Agbayani started things off at the service line and reeled off 11 straight points, including four consecutive aces and two more during her run. Kohala finished with 10 aces in the set.

In Game 2, the Cowgirls dropped nine aces, and the Cardinals couldn’t score consecutive points or stop the visitors from long scoring rallies.

Then a funny thing happened in the third set: Kohala caught St. Joe’s serve-receive flu bug and couldn’t pass straight.

Faumuina served 10 points in a row, including three aces, for a 17-5 cushion. Of course, it came with an asterisk. Several of Kohala’s backups were in the game.

Still, it was a good feeling for the Cards, who finished with a 9-7 record last year in the BIIF’s American flag, three-tiered Blue or bottom division.

Kauka, a transfer from Oahu, owns a consistent, deadly serve. She throws the ball up in the air with her right hand and rams it with vicious top spin, sending hard sinkers to the floor.

Down 22-17, Kauka served five consecutive aces during the eight-point spree, and Matsu ripped back-to-back kills to close the match.

Last season at states, Kohala lost to Molokai in five sets in the first round and to HPA in three games in consolation. The Cowgirls finished with a 13-9 record and knowledge what it takes to challenge for their first BIIF title.

Konawaena lost BIIF D-II player of the year Celena Jane Molina, and Honokaa graduated most of its firepower. HPA is probably the team to beat with savvy-hitting, senior middle Madi Lee and athletic junior hitter Gemma Palleschi back.

In the state consolation match, Lee knocked down 15 kills on 34 attempts and hit .265 while Palleschi added seven kills on 18 swings and hit .222. Kekoa had eight kills but hit .095 while Fuertes had six kills and hit .286. Imai had 12 assists and one kill on 13 swings.

Kohala hosts three-time defending BIIF champion Konawaena on Tuesday, Aug. 29 and HPA on Tuesday, Sept. 12. Those are circle dates and measuring sticks for the Cowgirls.


“The key for us is passing. We wanted to teach the girls a couple of plays, but when you can’t control your passing you can’t run any of it,” Lorenzo said.

Well, at least the Cowgirls got the other first touch — their tough serving, lucky or not — on target, a useful tool when the visiting Wildcats and Ka Makani come to town later.