KEAAU – It was the small stuff that impressed Guy Enriques after Kamehameha swept Hilo in the first-and-only impactful BIIF Division I showdown between the two on Monday night at Koaia Gym.
The Warriors served bullets to knock off the Vikings from the unbeaten ranks 25-9, 25-15, 25-22, ripping far more aces, 8-1 and unleashing a balanced offense that has been missing for a long time.
Just as impressive was Kamehameha’s offensive production with 39 kills and 28 unforced errors. Hilo had just 17 kills and 26 giveaway points. That’s a tough way to defend a BIIF championship when you give up more points than you score.
Nani Spaar displayed her hitting versatility with 15 kills, freshman Taina Kaauwai added nine kills, and Tiani Bello pounded eight kills for the Warriors (6-0), who won’t meet Hilo again unless it’s in the BIIF postseason.
With serve-receive passing woes and a lack of clean sets, Mahala Kaapuni managed seven kills, and Sarah Katayama added four kills to lead Hilo (4-1), which now has to play catch-up for the BIIF regular season title and the league’s automatic first state berth.
“We played pretty good overall,” Enriques said. “We had a few lapses where we let out guard down and lost a little focus. It was nice that we came back and tightened things up.
“We served pretty well. That’s a good part of our game. I think they didn’t pass and that took them out of their offense.”
In Game 1, Sierra Scanlan served six straight points, including an ace, to push Kamehameha ahead 10-3. Bello finished the set with two aces during a seven-point closing run.
Bello finished with three aces, Scanlan had two while Spaar, Kendall Cabatu, and Loke Kuamoo had one each. Scanlan has a wicked jump serve while Bello slammed line-drive sinkers.
Spaar had five of Kamehameha’s 11 kills in the first set. The Vikings, who couldn’t find a rhythm, had just five kills.
The Warrior had better balance in Game 2. Spaar and Bello each pounded four kills each.
And again, Kamehameha closed with a strong scoring run with six consecutive points, including an ace from Cabatu.
In the third set, Spaar showed her savvy hitting skills with a roll shot for a 13-10 lead, and Kaauwai, a 6-foot-1 middle blocker, blasted five kills. Spaar had six in the final game.
Kamehameha’s last two points came on Hilo unforced errors, a service error, followed by a hitting miscue.
Kaauwai and Scanlan, the soft-handed setter, are HI Intensity club teammates, and their familiarity with each other made for easy sets and kills. With either Spaar or Bello at the outside, Scanlan isolated Kaauwai for one-on-one opportunities.
When the gravy train is rolling all a coach can do is contemplate the good fortune of having an athletic talent like Kaauwai, who still has room for growth.
“Taina played very well. She’s got a lot of potential but has to stay focused,” he said. “She still has a lot to learn, the small stuff.
“She’s excited and hungry. The big thing for her is she’s hungry.”
Of course, it always helps to have a pair of All-BIIF players like Spaar and Bello, who neutralize mistakes with their hitting ability.
Kamehameha had a wobbly 14 unforced errors in Game 3. But Spaar and Bello combined for 8 of the offense’s 16 kills. They put down kills to get sideouts and start scoring runs. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Last season, the offense relied too heavily on Spaar, who sometimes logged over 100 swings. That wasn’t good for her health or that of the hitting attack, which could be easily schemed. Hilo proved that with last year’s BIIF title.
But the Warriors are not the same team. Bello is better, Kaauwai adds a wallop, and the ball-control is sharper. And having eight seniors on the roster, with no BIIF titles among them, is a good motivation as any. The 2014 BIIF championship team, with standouts Kaiu Ahuna and Zoe Leonard, is regarded as the best in school history. The 2019 edition has a chance to get in that neighborhood.
“We’re trying to get a little more balance,” Enriques said. “It’s no about how many sets you get, but how you do with the sets. It’s about productivity. Bello has made good strides. She’s consistent with her offensive game.
“She’s a much more reliable server. You want to be consistently good and control it. That makes us a lot tougher. It’s the small stuff that will separate us from other teams. It’s not the big kills. It’s the small stuff.”
As for Hilo, coach Drew Fernandez comes from a basketball background as the son of Kohala coach Don Fernandez. He knows how to fix things.
When a basketball team starts to leak oil, the first thing a coach will focus on is not beating yourself. Cut down the turnovers, or in volleyball’s case it’s unforced errors (service miscues, hitting errors, ball-handling mishaps), anything that gives the opposition free points.
It’s always the small stuff, something Kamehameha is now excelling at.