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Viks unsinkable in semis: Hilo sweeps Waveriders, faces Kamehameha in D-I final

  • JARED FUJISAKI photo
    Hilo's Mahala Kaapuni comes through with a block Monday as the Vikings swept Kealakehe in the BIIF D-I semifinals.
  • JARED FUJISAKI photo
    Hilo’s Taina Leo slams a ball past Kealakehe’s block Monday during the VIkings’ sweep in the BIIF D-I semifinals.

There was one shot, from Laurie McGrath’s beach volleyball experience, that summed up Hilo’s hitting strategy against Kealakehe.

McGrath, a senior middle blocker, faced a double block that took away her line shot. She instead hit a cutter that traveled along the net and fell to the open floor.

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It was placement over power, and it worked time and again as Hilo swept Kealakehe 25-19, 25-20, 25-23 in the BIIF Division I semifinals Monday night at the Viking Gym.

Hilo setters Erica Canon and Makani Lum Ho-Chesebro spread the ball around and always had good options in the front row.

McGrath knocked down nine kills, Mahala Kaapuni had eight, and Taina Leo added seven in a balanced attack for the Vikings (15-1), who earned an HHSAA tournament berth.

Keala Wright slammed 17 kills, and Anastasia Tuifua added 14 to shoulder the load for the Waveriders (13-3), who lose seniors Wright, Piilani Tupou, and Liana Lawson.

In the other D-I semifinal, Kamehameha swept defending BIIF champion Waiakea 25-12, 25-18, 25-16 at Koai’a Gym.

Nani Spaar slammed 20 kills, and Tiani Bello added seven kills and four aces for the Warriors (16-0). Mahina Kenoi had nine digs, Spaar seven, and Bello six digs.

The season is over for Waiakea (12-4), which loses senior starters Cary Catrett, Makena Hanle, and Cadelyn Kahauolopua.

Kamehameha plays Hilo for the BIIF championship on Thursday, Oct. 18 at Konawaena’s Ellison Onizuka Gym.

Hilo had efficient hitting numbers: 34 kills and 22 unforced errors, including only five giveaway points in each of the first two sets.

Kealakehe struggled with 37 kills and 37 unforced errors, including 14 in each of the last two games. Hilo didn’t need to score much with all that help.

As an added bonus, the Viks got a lot of easy points from their roofing department. They outblocked the Waveriders, who have never been to states, 11-3.

“Our hitting strategy was to hit smart and play smart. That was a shot from beach,” McGrath said about her cutter. “We wanted to use our shots, not hit as hard as we could.

“I liked that everyone was talking, and we had exciting energy, and everyone was pushing hard.”

McGrath’s well-placed shot pushed Hilo ahead 8-6 in Game 2, and the Vikings kept jumping on mini-scoring runs to close the set.

In Game 3, Leao pounded four kills, and Hilo bolted to a comfortable 20-11 cushion.

In the first set, Kaapuni was on fire with five kills, and McGrath, who signed to play beach volleyball for the Rainbow Wahine, added four kills.

Kealakehe led 12-5 and was in a nice rhythm, passing and defending well and taking clean shots. But then the visitors unraveled from there with seven of their nine unforced errors. That good flow left the gym and never came back.

Wright, the ambidextrous-hitting senior hitter, blasted seven kills in the first set, six in the second and four in the third.

But she and Tuifua accounted for 84 percent of Kealakehe’s offense, and Hilo stacked its block accordingly.

“Blocks help you, no matter if you touch a ball or block it straight down,” Hilo coach Drew Fernandez said. “I tell the girls if you block you can slow the ball down, and it’s easier to put up a set.

“We could have hit a little better sometimes.”

He was talking about Game 3 when Hilo had 12 unforced errors. But Kealakehe had two more, so no big worries there.

“It was a tough match,” Kealakehe coach Kahinu Lee said. “We were in it every set. The girls fought, and we came back, but we couldn’t finish.”

Now, it’s Hilo’s turn to finish again. The Viks last won the BIIF Division I title in 2016; Kamehameha’s most recent was in 2014.

Monday

Division I semifinals

• KS-Hawaii def. Waiakea 25-12, 25-18, 25-16

• Hilo def, Kealakehe 25-19, 25-20, 25-23

Division II, first round

• Kohala def. Pahoa 25-16, 25-20, 25-20

• HPA def, Christian Liberty 25-11, 25-15, 25-8

• Konawaena def. Honokaa 25-12, 25-17, 25-12

• Ka‘u def. Makua Lani 17-25, 25-23, 25-20, 25-19

Wednesday

At Konawaena

Division I final

Hilo (15-1) vs. Kamehameha (16-0), 7 p.m.

Division II semifinals

Kohala (11-4) vs. Ka’u (7-9), 4 p.m.

HPA (11-5) vs. Konawaena (9-7), 5:30 p.m.

Thursday

At Konawaena

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Division II final

Semifinal winners, 7 p.m.