Pahoa held an early Senior day for its volleyball team against St. Joseph on Friday at Hilo Armory, where auditions continued and a celebration followed.
The Daggers, who are still searching for a starting lineup, swept the Cardinals 25-15, 25-23, 25-15 in a BIIF Division II match that boosted their standings in a tight race for the last playoff spot.
Pahoa (2-5) is now sixth, the last spot in the six-team playoffs, and has a bunch of Division II battles around the corner.
The Daggers hit the road and play Makua Lani (3-5), which upset four-time defending BIIF champion Konawaena, on Tuesday and Christian Liberty (2-8) on Thursday.
The Cardinals (0-8), who have just two seniors, were plagued by their youth and too many unforced errors.
Pahoa’s seniors are Jania Chang, libero Kaydelynn Alejandro, and Kamalani Santo, who finished with one kill before photos were taken and lei draped on the players.
The Daggers Gym is under construction, and first-year coach Jeanine Baker was grateful to St. Joseph and Hilo Armory for hosting the senior day.
Baker pointed out that Chang came a long way, described Santos’ enthusiasm and Alejandro’s poise in her summary of the three seniors.
“Jania has come from quite a level. At a (preseason) tourney at Waiakea, she completely blossomed,” Baker said. “Kamalani is a fireball. If you give her feedback, she’s very responsive in taking it in. Kaydelynn is calm, very supportive and has a lot of energy. She’s got the right head for the game.”
Told that she sounds like her old coach Sharon Peterson, the UH-Hilo legend and current Hawaii Prep coach, Baker, who was Jeanine Williams in her Vulcan days, could only chuckle.
“I remember she used to talk about that,” said Baker, recalling one of Peterson’s famous quotes: The game is played from the neck up.
Junior middle blocker Kawai Kuahiwinui knocked down seven kills to lead the Daggers, and another junior Rayanne Ganiron, who also set, added five kills. Sophomore Tiani Colobong is the other setter.
There’s a good nucleus of youth on the roster. Sophomore Brateil Ventura had three kills, freshman Maia Biegler three kills, and freshman Kuuipo Adolpho ripped all three of her kills in the last set. Maile Stein, a junior, also saw time.
That’s eight candidates for six spots for Baker to figure out. Back in the day, she was a setter at UHH. Her assistant Kahea Rodrigues was a UHH libero. That’s a good reason Pahoa’s ball-control (setting and passing) looked pretty sharp.
“We’re still looking to find a starting six but the people we put in are doing well,” Baker said.
She hasn’t had time to share any old Vulcan war stories. But she knows all too well the feeling of fighting for playing time. Here’s a Baker story for her Daggers.
During her two years at UHH, her roommate was Carla Champoux, who was also a friend and fellow setter. Baker’s most distinctive characteristic was her competitiveness. She didn’t enjoy being on the bench, but the Vulcans were successful during the setting tandem’s two years in 1993 and ’94.
In 1993, UHH was 26-6 and the NAIA runner-up. The next season, the Vulcans jumped to Division II, finished 24-7 and advanced to the postseason. Maybe even better, in 1994, Carla Champoux and Jeanine Williams were on the PacWest All-Academic team.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals don’t have the ball-handling like Pahoa, but they have a strong hammer in senior outside hitter Emma Faumuina, who had a match-high 10 kills. On one play, she took three swings from the back row, finally getting a kill on the last one.
But on Friday night, there was no stopping the Daggers, who were determined to jump up in the standings and celebrate their seniors.