HHSAA tournament: Hilo blocks out Leilehua to reach quarterfinals

  • JARED FUJISAKI photo Hilo's Kaala Deitch finished with 20 kills Monday against Leilehua in a four-set Vikings victory in the first round of the HHSAA tournament.

Not only did Hilo High junior hitter Kaala Deitch not want to finish the season with consecutive losses, but – and no offense to Leilehua – elimination also would have come against a school he had never heard of before.

Deitch did desire to play volleyball on Oahu for the first time, and he got what he wanted Monday by smacking precisely half of the Vikings’ 40 kills in a 25-17, 19-25, 25-22, 25-16 victory in a state first-round match at Hilo’s gym.

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“I really didn’t want to lose this game,” Deitch said. “We all had to dip down and focus a little but more to do it. “

MJ Vento-Rowe added seven kills, Keanu Ouranitsas-Hayes had six and Kaoha Wilson finished with five as the BIIF runner-up Vikings (15-1) overcome another bout of second-set sluggishness, which coach Cy Alicuben Sr. is ready to see eliminated.

In fact, it’s prerequisite for Hilo to be able to compete in its state quarterfinal match.

Deitch has heard of Iolani. The ILH champion and top seed awaits at 7 p.m. Thursday at Moanalua’s Gym in Honolulu.

“Let it all hang loose,” Alicuben said of Hilo’s approach. “They are the No. 1 team in the state, just go for it. I don’t care what they do, as long as they go for them, I’m going to be happy.”

Hilo will join BIIF champion Kamehameha in Honolulu. The Warriors, who will face perennial power Punahou on Thursday in the quarters, drew a bye Monday after handing the Vikings a disappointing defeat on their home floor last week in the BIIF final.

Or maybe the loss wasn’t so disappointing?

“I would say it was kind of a great loss for us,” Deitch said. “Our team had never experienced a loss the whole year. That just got our fire going again, and we needed that. I feel it made us a little more stronger and a little more hungry.”

Hilo breezed in Monday’s first set, but it never led in the second set, and trouble appeared when the OIA Mules took an 18-12 lead in Game 3 on Timaye Tatupu’s ace.

Tatupu’s next serve was an error, and Hilo scored five consecutive points on Deitch’s service to tie the set. Down 21-19, kills by Vento-Rowe and Ouranitsas-Hayes sparked a 5-0 run, an after an attack error, Ouranitsas-Hayes’s kill clinched the set.

“The second set they always come out flat,” Alicuben said, “I always teach them, you still have to win three sets, you still have to play.”

Along with hitting .255 on 47 swings, Deitch collected 11 digs. Setter Cy Alicuben Jr. finished with 36 assists and two aces, and Ouranitsas-Hayes led the way as Hilo outblocked Leilehua 12-1. Vento-Rowe also had two aces as Hilo finished with five and just one error.

“Some things weren’t working for us, but we cleaned it up as the game went on,” Alicuben said. “To get back when you’re behind starts with a pass, and they worked really hard and we’re conscious about it.

“The smaller things is what did it for us tonight.”

The Mules (10-5) finished with 50 kills – Tatupu had 13 – but hit just .162 and made 14 service errors.

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Coach Alicuben said Iolani brings height in droves on the front line and is able to go 6-foot-6 across the board in some rotations.

“One of our biggest challenges is not to be intimidated,” Deitch said. “They are just another team. We just have to play our game. We’ll be ready.”

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