KEALAKEKUA — The game stretched into the wee hours of Friday evening, but Kealakehe and its heavy hitters put on a performance against rival Konawaena that should send an early message that sleeping on the Waveriders in the Division I race this season would be a bad idea.
The Waveriders powered their way past the Wildcats 25-21, 25-2, 25-27, 25-18 behind the athletic Anthony “Head” Trevino, the power-hitting Isaiah Hooper and first year setter Ikaika Pali.
Trevino, a three-sport standout, was all over the court, but was the biggest threat from the outside, where he used his power to his team’s advantage. Kealakehe consistently set up the senior — at one time finding him for five consecutive plays in the second set. He also led an eight-point run from the service line.
“He is Mr. All-around. He is the positive guy, always smiling and leading the team,” said Waveriders head coach Kahinu Lee. “Realistically, this is only his third year playing and he is still trying to understand the concept of the game but he is coming around. It is amazing to see how dominant this kid can be in three different sports.”
When Trevino wasn’t putting points away from Kealakehe, Hooper, who is only a sophomore, stepped to the net.
“He is tall and very knowledgeable about the game,” Lee said. “He is a work in progress, but once we get him better at what he needs to do on the outside, he will be fine.”
Hooper and Trevino are the only two returning starters from last year’s squad, but they are joined by a talented junior in Pali this year.
“He has trained hard to learn the position since the end of football season,” Lee said. “He ran the court out there against Konawaena and did a great job on probably 95 percent of his sets. He is the quarterback of the team.”
With a talented trio leading a mostly young varsity squad, Kealakehe is looking to break out this season and hopefully reach the playoffs for the first time since the 2003 season, a year in which the team’s current coach led the Waveriders to a BIIF championship.
Over the past few years, Kamehameha, Waiakea and Hilo have dominated the D-I state berths. However, this year Waiakea has no returning starters and Kamehameha is returning only one starter. However, Kealakehe really isn’t thinking that far ahead just yet.
“We are just taking it one game at a time,” Lee said. “To us, everyone is a great team and we just want to play hard and give it our best.”
Changes at Konawaena
The Wildcats enter the new volleyball season with only three returning starters from last year’s squad, which finished runner-up to Hawaii Preparatory Academy in the Division II a season ago.
However, the biggest change for Konawaena is at the helm, where August Dias, who has been with the program for three years as an assistant, takes over for Ainsley Keawekane.
“Taking over was always the goal when I first came here and thankfully I get the opportunity thanks to Ainsley and (athletic director) Kellye Krug,” Dias said. “The boys are used to me since I have been here, and we are going to run a similar system. I’m just going to speed it up more.”
Speed is key for Dias. He wants faster passing and faster setting. In a perfect world, he’d also wants his team to be quicker and more powerful.
“I want our movements to be based on fast twitch muscles and fibers,” Dias said. “This will provide us with more one-on-one hitting, allowing us to take advantage of mismatches.”
Dias will have a All-BIIF first-teamer helping him in his inaugural head coaching season. Ben McKinley, one of the most consistent players in the BIIF, returns for his senior season and he will take on a much larger role in Dias’ scheme.
“Last year he was mostly used as a setter, but he will do everything for us,” Dias said. “He blocks well, is a great setter, is one of our best servers and is a leader on the court.”
McKinley will also get a lot more opportunities at the net, something that was on display in the game against the Wildcats.
“He hits a pretty good ball and he is left-handed, something not a lot of teams get to see,” Dias said. “He is definitely a weapon for us.”
Also returning for the Wildcats are outside hitter senior Andre “Nalu” Frias and senior middle blocker Osaiasi Muti. One person not returning this season after graduating is All-BIIF first team member Viliami Kaea, who provided most of the offense on last year’s squad, while protecting the center of the net.
“We will have to spread the ball around more this season,” said Dias on trying to fill the hole left by Viliami. “We have long middles who can move quickly and close gaps so I think we will be okay.”
As for the loss to the Waveriders, it was the little things that ended up hurting the Wildcats
“Our passing and setting was inconsistent and we definitely need work serving,” Dias said. “We are also working on a new blocking scheme. It worked for us sometimes, but it is still a work-in-progress.”
Konawaena will be back in action on Tuesday when they host Kohala. Kealakehe will play on Monday at home against Keaau.