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V is for victory: Hilo upsets Kamehameha, claims D-I volleyball title

  • Kamehameha's Nani Spaar spikes the ball in the first set against Hilo during the BIIF Division I championship game at Konawaena High School in Kealakekua on Wednesday. (Rick Winters/West Hawaii Today)
  • Kamehameha's Nani Spaar spikes the ball in the first set against Hilo during the BIIF Division I championship game at Konawaena High School in Kealakekua on Wednesday. (Rick Winters/West Hawaii Today)
  • RICK WINTERS/West Hawaii Today
    Hilo celebrates defeating Kamehameha for the BIIF Division I championship on Wednesday at Konawaena High School in Kealakekua.

KEALAKEKUA — Kamehameha had not dropped a single set since the team’s league opener back in mid-August, but in Wednesday night’s BIIF Division I championship match, Hilo looked like the undefeated team, putting the Warriors in unfamiliar territory.

The Vikings put the Warriors backs against the wall, and then finished them off in four sets 25-22, 24-26, 25-18, 26-24 to claim the schools first BIIF girls volleyball title since 2016.

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The win would not come easy. Hilo battled from behind in the first two sets to mixed results. The Vikings took the opening set after trailing most of the time thanks to a late rally.

In the second set, the Vikings fell down 20-17 before tying the match at 20-all. Kamehameha went up 23-20, but Hilo reeled them in again.

The Warriors tried to convert on match point at 24-23 but failed. Kamehameha then had one more opportunity to close the set out at 25-24. This time the team converted when Spaar hit a bullet down the middle for a kill point.

The lost second set may have set off a few unpleasant flashbacks to last year’s championship match when Hilo lost a two-set lead to Waiakea, dropping the match 3-2.

However, this year was a different story with the Vikings controlling the third set from nearly start to finish.

In the final set, the Vikings went on the attack early, going up 8-4 when Tia Leao spiked the ball between a pair of Kamehameha blockers.

The Warriors, now playing the roll of comeback artist, managed to cut the deficit to one, but Hilo was undeterred, increasing their lead to 14-9 with Mahala Ka’apuni picking up a big kill to prolong the 5-point run.

As the fourth set went on, the points became longer and the tension mounted.

A well placed floater and a blocked shot by Laurie McGrath, who had recently entered the game, kept Hilo up by three late in the set. McGrath added another kill to put the Vikings up 19-15 before exiting the game.

But Kamehameha continued to fight back, forcing a Hilo timeout. After the break, Kamehameha tied the set at 21-all with Spaar picking up two kills in the rally.

It looked like Spaar had put her team up on the following point, but her shot was ruled out-of-bounds by the line judge, giving Hilo the advantage. Ka’apuni then hit a spike that knocked down a Warrior defender for a two-point lead at 23-21.

Spaar and Tihane DeRego answered back for the Warriors with a pair of kills to tie the set. Spaar’s shot could have caused a crater in the gym floor.

Hilo followed with a kill by Taina Leao to set up match point. It was not the only time Taina Leao came through for the Vikings. She finished with a team high 14 kills.

Spaar prolonged the match with a kill but Kamehameha’s next serve went long, giving Hilo a second chance for the victory. This time the Vikings would convert when Taylor Canon spiked the deciding point.

The Warriors looked out of rhythm for most of the match, and so did Spaar, who had several shots blocked, go into the net or go long. However, the Temple University commit still led all scorers with 35 kills — more than double anyone else.

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The Warriors last won the league title in 2014, when they wrapped up a string of five consecutive championships.

Both teams have qualified for the HHSAA tournament, which starts next week.