KEAAU – It’s always a good sign for Kamehameha when junior outside hitters Nani Spaar and Tiani Bello are taking healthy swings and the volleyball is bouncing off defenders with no shot for the opposition to return fire.
The package-deal sluggers were at their shot-making best, and the Warriors prevailed over Waianae 17-25, 25-22, 22-25, 25-20, 16-14 in the first round of the HHSAA Division I tournament Monday at Koai’a Gym.
“What I loved was we kept attacking,” Kamehameha coach Guy Enriques said. “We didn’t look for soft shots. If we were going to go down, we were going to swing hard.”
Kamehameha (17-1) plays No. 2 seed and OIA champion Mililani (13-0) in the quarterfinals at 5 p.m. Thursday at Moanalua High’s gym.
No. 4 seed and BIIF champion Hilo (16-1) plays OIA runner-up Kahuku (13-1) in the quarterfinals at 5 p.m at McKinley High’s gym.
It’s the first time Spaar and Bello will get a chance to face the state’s best on Oahu in the first round’s win-or-go-home scenario.
“I’m excited to go to states and play on Oahu,” Bello said. “Hopefully, we can do good.”
Spaar had a workhorse day: 33 kills, 18 errors, 90 swings, and a .167 hitting clip. Bello tag-teamed for 26 kills, 10 errors, 54 attacks, and a .296 hitting percentage. They combined for 89 percent of the offense and produced clutch plays in the tension-filled fifth set.
It started with Bello when she blasted a rocket off a back-row defender, then she hit a corner shot, and went over the block for a 9-9 tie.
Later, Bello went back to serve and reeled off a five-point run, including an ace and capped by a Spaar point for a 14-11 lead. The Seariders scored, and then Spaar cranked two errant long balls to add a bit of drama and tie it 14-14.
“I was a little nervous,” Spaar said about turning up the suspense. “But I had confidence in myself.”
For the match, Waianae (11-4), the OIA’s No. 5 team, put up a permanent double-block on Spaar and had its back row switch from a deep perimeter to a middle-up perimeter. That defensive positioning didn’t matter for Spaar’s next swing. She pulverized a shot off a back-court defender for a 15-14 lead.
The Seariders set their best player, junior hitter Heipua Tautua’a, who went off for seven kills in Game 1, but she hit into the net for match point.
Waianae had better balance but not enough firepower; Kamehameha had more kills, 66-53. Tautua’a had 17 kills on 50 attacks and hit .180, and Cherish Borge, the other outside hitter, added 15 kills on 45 swings.
Bello and Spaar had double-doubles with 19 and 12 digs, respectively. Freshman setter Sierra Scanlan had a double-double with 55 assists and 11 digs. Mahina Kenoi added 13 digs, and Kendall Cabatu had 12 digs.
In the pivotal second set, Bello drilled an overpass for a 24-21 lead, and two plays later Spaar hit a sinker from the back row to build some much-needed momentum.
However, that feel-good feeling took a coffee break in Game 3. The Warriors led 20-17, and Waianae’s last four points came on Kamehameha unforced errors: block, service error, hitting error, and a set-point block.
Game 4 went the Warriors’ way with Bello behind the service line. She had a seven-point run, dropping an ace on set point.
After the marathon was over, Spaar didn’t acknowledge her shot-making right arm. Instead, she pointed to something else.
“We’ve worked hard,” she said. “We pushed through, and it was with a lot of heart.”