Kaala Deitch wasn’t born with a big jump, but the Hilo junior outside hitter worked on his vertical until it became a dangerous weapon.
Deitch made a bigger leap on the BIIF volleyball court, where he established himself as the most dynamic offensive threat. He was pretty good in the back row, too, often picking up enough digs to post routine double-doubles.
In a season of consistent brilliance, Deitch was named the BIIF Division I player of the year, in a vote by the league’s coaches, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald and West Hawaii Today.
“I’m really happy. I wasn’t expecting this. It’s always been one of my goals,” Deitch said. “I focused a little more on leadership. I felt we needed more leaders to push us throughout the year.”
Two Hilo senior teammates in setter Cy Alicuben and outside hitter MJ Vento Rowe joined Deitch on the first team.
Deitch benefited from Hilo’s solid ball-control, from Alicuben’s setting to the passing from libero Lester Walker, who was an honorable mention.
“The setting is more important than the hitting,” Deitch said. “And passing is more important that setting.
Without a pass, you can’t have a set. I was fortunate enough to have a bond with Cy because we played together before high school. That bond helps us a lot.”
Deitch, Alicuben, and Vento Rowe are all first-time first-team picks. Vento Rowe is the unlikely one. He played as a freshman but didn’t come out the last two years.
“I was hoping we’d get more than one. But if we got three, those are the three I would pick,” Hilo coach Cy Alicuben said. “Cy averaged 10 assists the whole season. I was hoping people would recognize him for what he was doing. MJ is a Rowe and volleyball runs in his blood.
“Kaala works so hard. He practices at home and all his hard work paid off. He’s really a student of the game and is very coachable. He’s a nice kid altogether. It’s been a year of growth for him.”
Others on the first team were Kamehameha hitter Kamau Maka’ike and libero Kamahao Kawelu, Kealakehe hitter Isaiah Hooper and Waiakea hitter Makana Kaehuaea-Credo.
Hooper and Kawelu are repeat selections.
Kealakehe’s Kahinu Lee, who led the Waveriders back to the BIIF postseason, was voted the BIIF coach of the year for the second consecutive year.
Even when an opponent figured out how to stop his team, Deitch was inevitable, a force of nature that would still produce damage.
Take the BIIF championship, a four-set loss to Kamehameha, for example.
He pounded 29 kills on 59 swings and hit .356. Deitch added 12 digs and passed 11 of 12 balls in serve-receive for a .917 clip.
Those numbers cover all the bases — hitting, defense and passing — and confirm his ability as an all-around star.
When the Vikings needed him the most a week later at an HHSAA first-round match, Deitch delivered again. He put up a double-double with 20 kills and 11 digs in a four-set win over Leilehua.
At 6 feet, Deitch can touch 11 feet or three feet above a volleyball net. He’s pretty sure he knows where his vertical came from.
“Some of the time, it’s in the genetics,” he said. “But in my case, I kind of had to work for it.”
His parents (Josh and Kris Deitch) provided a nurturing environment for Kaala, who’s been going to Ke Kula O Nawahiokalaniopuu Iki, a Hawaiian immersion school in Keaau, since kindergarten.
That’s been a second family for him. He connected with another when he joined the Vikings.
“In all my years of high school volleyball, Hilo has been kind of a family,” he said. “We have fun and the main thing is we all love each other.”
Hilo placed sixth at states and left some goals on the table. The Vikings haven’t won a BIIF Division I title since 1999.
“I’m happy I get him for one more year,” Alicuben said. “He’s really grown by leaps and bounds this year.”
Kamau Makaike, Kamehameha, OH, 11
Kamahao Kawelu, Kamehameha, L, 12
Kaala Deitch, Hilo, OH, 11
Cy Alicuben, Hilo, S, 12
MJ Vento Rowe, Hilo, OH, 12
Isaiah Hooper, Kealakehe, OH, 12
Makana Kaehuaea-Credo, Waiakea, OH, 11
Player of the Year
Kaala Deitch, Hilo
Coach of the Year
Kahinu Lee, Kealakehe
Kamehameha: Chase Bridges-Hunter, Davin Masanda, Blake Baclig, Blane Baclig, Chyston Loa
Hilo: Kelii Moku Maikui, Keanu Quranitsas-Hayes, Lester Walker, Kaoha Wilson
Kealakehe: Ikaika Paul, Thomas Depontes, Nary Mareko, Ryzaiah Botelho
Keaau: John-Gunny Ramirez, Branden Pagala
Waiakea: Cole Shiroma, Peter Suiaunoa, Davin Arkangel