KEAAU – Waiakea’s boys volleyball team hadn’t beaten Kamehameha in so long – no BIIF team had – that for a while it appeared the Warriors might have forgotten how to play their rival.
But when Waiakea couldn’t rely on sheer muscle memory Saturday, it could count on the left arm of Peter Kalani-Suaunoa, and he and his teammates seemed to find themselves along the way.
There was a bounce-back effort in a must-have third set, and Carson Yoshioka’s exhilarating serve, which produced three aces, got Waiakea off to strong start in the fourth set as Kamehameha seemed to loose a little steam. By the time the tight fifth set rolled around between two retooled Division I powers, the stage was set for Makana Kaehuaea-Credo to drop the hammer and put the finishing touches on a riveting 23-25, 24-26, 25-23, 25-22, 15-11 victory at Koai’a Gym that marked Kamehameha’s first BIIF loss since 2013.
“Coming out with a bang,” Kalani-Suaunoa said of his team after he enjoyed a coming-out party with 25 kills.
“Waiakea is supposed to be known for playing the game with a positive attitude,” he said. “Even if you get blocked. I mean, I got blocked a couple of times. Shake it off, it happens.”
So did this rally, improbable as seemed when Waiakea (2-0) took a short break after losing the first two sets to a team it hadn’t beaten since it the program claimed its last BIIF title five seasons ago. Sure, Kamehameha (1-1) is moving past the Enrique Era, but it still features Nalu Kahapea, who slammed 29 kills.
“I took the boys to the back (at the break) and told them these are the kind of games I love to win,” coach Napua Canda said, “because not all teams can come back from being down two sets.”
Not all teams can lose most of its main contributors from a year ago but still return the firepower that Waiakea enjoys between Kalani-Suaunoa, a junior, and sophomores Kaehuaea-Credo (14 kills) and Cole Shiroma (12 kills).
Kalani-Suaunoa is known commodity among club coaches, but he’s beginning only his second season of high school volleyball.
“I told Peter he can be one of the best players in the state this season,” Canda said. “We’re full of young athletic kids, but he’ll keep carrying us though out the year.”
Most on Waiakea play club ball with Pilipaa under Ecko Osorio, a former longtime Waiakea coach turned assistant.
Same system, same approach under Canda, a 2005 Waiakea graduate.
“We started off a little rough and a little tense,” Canda said. “We haven’t beaten Kamehameha in quite a few years. I think the boys just got a little jittery.
“Once we started figuring out how to score points in certain locations, they kind of put it together and played loose.”
Beyond the domineering presence of Kahapea, Kamehameha struggled to find points, especially in the final three sets. Isaiah Nakoa-Oness contributed seven kills and freshman Chyston Loa finished with five. Gavin Galimba served three aces.
First-year coach Sam Thomas credited Waiakea with doing its due diligence in the scouting department during Kamehameha’s four-set win against Hilo on Wednesday.
“They used our weaknesses to their strengths,” Thomas said. “We’re not a good ball-control team yet, and that’s what we’ve been working on, that and communication. We’re going to have to go work on that some more.
“They have big hitters and we have a big block and Waiakea utilized the block. They killed the block all afternoon long.”
Kamehameha looked out of sync late in the fourth game, which ended when a would-be set went unattended and dropped to the ground to tie the match. It was game until in the fifth set before Kaehuaea-Credo took over. He had a hand in Waiakea’s final four points, including a kill to set up match point and a block to end it.
“I’d say watch out for those guys,” Kalani-Suaunoa said of the sophomores. “They are coming out hot.”
Kamehameha won’t have to wait long for the rematch as the teams are set to meet again March 12 at Waiakea.
“We have to be satisfied with the win but not satisfied with the game we played because (Kamehameha) is going to work hard,” Canda said.