HHSAA volleyball: Hilo’s memorable season ends in quarterfinals

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KEAAU — Hilo’s magical volleyball ride finally came to an end, and a serious rebuilding job will soon take place.

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KEAAU — Hilo’s magical volleyball ride finally came to an end, and a serious rebuilding job will soon take place.

King Kekaulike swept the Vikings 26-24, 25-21, 25-18 in the quarterfinals in the HHSAA Division I tournament on Saturday at Koaia Gym.

The season is over for the BIIF runner-up Vikings (13-5), who lose five senior starters in Bradley Comilla, Justice Lord, Maikah Tandal, Trevor Castro, and Sione Atuekaho.

The No. 4 seed and MIL champion Na Alii (13-2) will play No. 1 seed and three-time defending state champion Punahou (16-0) in the semifinals at 5 p.m. Friday at Moanalua High’s gym.

Lord had a memorable final match. The 6-foot-5 middle blocker blasted 13 kills on a .455 hitting clip. Comilla, his firepower partner, struggled. The 6-2 outside hitter had 10 kills, but hit negative .037.

Tandal and Atuekaho each had three kills, and Castro, Hilo’s standout libero, had just three digs.

Junior outside hitter, Taulele Toledo, who had two kills, and junior setter Kaimana Kawaha will lead a new-look lineup next year.

“We’ve got a lot of big shoes to fill, a lot of holes,” Hilo coach Ben Pana said. “Hopefully, some of the kids coming back will get a little taller.

“But it was a great ride for this senior class. We’ve come a long way, and I’m proud of the team.”

Not long ago, the Vikings won four straight BIIF titles, the last in 2009. But that was on the Division II level. The school’s last state appearance against competition its own size was 2001, before statewide classification started in 2005.

In a first-round sweep against Kahuku on Friday, the Vikings served six aces, and their tough serving gave the OIA’s No. 3 team’s ball-handlers trouble starting the offense’s engine with wobbly passes in serve-receive.

That was a sweep — as well as a win — not many saw coming.

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A day later, Hilo’s serving, the team’s strength, wasn’t a deadly weapon against King Kekaulike, which had little trouble passing in serve-receive and ran a smooth and balanced offense.

“It wasn’t the best outcome that we wanted,” Pana said. “We were not as efficient as we were on Friday night, with our passing and serving. They’ve got a good team and No. 4 (Cowell) killed us with his jump-serve. They had a game plan and executed it. It was hard for us to adjust.”