HHSAA volleyball: Waiakea swept away by Hurricanes in first round

  • RICK OGATA photo Waiakea setter Grace Nakoa-Oness pops up a dig. She had eight digs and 12 assists against Kapolei on Monday

It was the same old story as Kapolei came, conquered and dispatched Waiakea into a cold offseason.

The Hurricanes overpowered Waiakea in a 25-15, 25-18, 25-13 sweep in the first round of the HHSAA Division I tournament Monday at the Warriors Gym.

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Kawehi Marinas slammed 16 kills and hit .333, and Alizaaysha “Toodie” Sopi added 15 kills and hit .345 for Kapolei (12-2), which finished with a .323 hitting clip.

Kailey Doll had seven kills and hit .385, and every other starter hit under .200 for Waiakea (12-4), which hit negative .012.

Waiakea and Kapolei are familiar foes. They met in the quarterfinals in 2017, when the Warriors were the BIIF champions and stacked with one of their better rosters, which featured Kayla Kahauolopua, Jordyn Hayashi, Angel Navor, Melina Devela, and Jazz Alston, all playing college ball. The Hurricanes won in four sets.

In 2016, the two played in the first round at Waiakea, where Kapolei won in five sets.

“Waiakea is like our sister school,” Kapolei coach Naidah Gamurot said. “We know our way around the locker room. We’re always playing them.”

The Hurricanes return four starters, including 5-foot-11 sophomore Sopi, who had 12 kills and hit .303 against runner-up Iolani in a first round, three-set loss last year.

It’s not all the time someone hits over .300 against an ILH team. But Sopi has long arms, an array of shots and no shortage of talent.

Even more impressive was Kapolei’s defense. The Hurricanes outblocked Waiakea, 8-1, had more digs, 40-36, and aces, 9-4.

The Warriors are one of the BIIF’s best passing team, right next to Kamehameha, but struggled to get the ball to setter Grace Nakoa-Oness.

That lack of ball-control contributed to Waiakea’s low kill total, 18 in all. Kapolei had 43 kills.

“It was a tough loss,” Waiakea coach Ashley Hanohano said. “We couldn’t make the necessary changes to get the game going our way. They had a big block. We should have used more shots. It was a good learning experience for the coaches and players.”

In the first set, Kapolei scored 12 straight points for an 18-5 cushion. During that run, the Hurricanes had four blocks and three aces.

Obviously, Kapolei’s height bothered the Warriors, who had 12 unforced errors.

In Game 2, the Hurricanes had a whopping 15 unforced errors but had a 72 percent sideout rate, not allowing Waiakea to manufacture any long scoring runs.

Sopi hammered six kills in the set and was just getting warmed up.

In Game 3, Marinas, a 5-6 junior, drilled 10 kills. She found ways to hit around the block or off it. Sopi added seven kills.

Kapolei is the OIA’s NO. 3 team. The Hurricanes have never won a league title. That’s usually a fight between Mililani, Moanalua or Kahuku.

Asked where he program sits in the state’s pecking order, Gamurot pointed to scoringlive.com’s poll.

“I think scoring live got it right,” she said. “We’re No. 6 behind Mililani and Moanalua and the ILH teams.”

The Hurricanes next face No. 1 seed Kamehameha-Kapalama in the quarterfinals on Thursday.

BIIF champion Kamehameha (15-0) plays Punahou at 5 p.m. Thursday at McKinley gym on Oahu.

The season is over for Waiakea, which loses key starters Kelsie Imai, Bethany Honma, and Michelle Vintero.

There’s a nice returning nucleus with freshman setter Nakoa-Oness, junior libero Kaena Kekaualua (four digs), junior hitters Siera K-Aloha and Doll. Also returning are defenders Jaymi Kaneshiro (five digs), and Kayla Kodani (10 digs).

The Warriors really weren’t supposed to make it to states. They survived two match point serves to beat Kealakehe in the BIIF semifinals.

Honma and Vintero are the last members of the 2017 BIIF title team, which rallied from an 0-2 set hole to win the championship over Hilo.

It was tough to watch an OIA team come to Hilo and make itself right at home. Most times the ball went to either Sopi or Marinas, and Waiakea still couldn’t stop the onslaught.

Hanohano is an optimist, a coach who can find a silver lining on a rainy day. She gave one last speech to her players and made them feel good about themselves.

“Like I told the team, we accomplished many things this season,” she said. “People looked at as the fourth seed. (Waiakea was No. 3). We surpassed that and made it to the championship. I’m proud of them for this season.”

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The Warriors have been to states five of the last six years. They have a good shot at making consecutive appearances next season.

Hopefully, if they do, Waiakea doesn’t run into Kapolei again.

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