KEAAU – For most of their BIIF Division I volleyball semifinal match, one couldn’t accuse Kamehameha’s Warriors of being front-runners.
A five-point lead was no lead Monday night, leaving Waiakea’s Warriors right where they wanted them.
By the fourth set, however, Kamehameha finally figured out how to put its opponent away, advancing to the championship match with a 22-25, 25-19, 33-31, 25-18 victory at Koaia Gym.
“I just told one of my coaches, all four sets should have been us,” coach Sam Thomas said. “Waiakea is such a disciplined, well-coached team, they are not going to just give it to us.
“We talked about how fun these games are versus a blowout, but you still have to earn it.”
Hitting smarter as the match went on, junior Kamau Maka’ike led the way with 17 kills and sophomore Blane Baclig was big with nine for Kamehameha (13-1), which advances to the HHSAA tournament for the 14th consecutive season and will face Hilo on Wednesday night at the Vikings’ gym in the title game. In the other semifinal, the Vikings (14-0) turned back defending champion Kealakehe 25-18, 23-25, 25-20, 25-16.
“Coach was telling us to swing to win,” Maka’ike said. “Don’t be afraid to swing the ball and go out and have fun.”
Waiakea (11-4) missed out on a trip to the state tournament for a second consecutive season. Makana Kaehuaea-Credo slammed 19 kills and Peter Suiaunoa finished with 13, but Waiakea was undone by untimely 17 service errors. Cole Shiroma contributed five kills.
Waiakea kept Kamehameha off-balance enough to cover up for its mistakes until Game 4, when Maka’ike came out firing and showed his full arsenal, tallying a block an ace and a kill early on.
“I told him don’t over swing now,” Thomas said. “The way he swings opens up the defense for us, and you need someone like that.”
Kamehameha was less mistake-prone on its serves, and along with 32 digs senior libero Albert Kawelu came through with four aces, including on match point. Sophomore Chyston Loa added six kills and senior Blake Baclig and sophomore Chase Bridges-Hunter had five apiece.
Waiakea trailed by as many as six points in the first set, but Suiaunoa’s kill tied it 22-22, and Waiakea scored the last five points on two Kamehameha hitting errors sandwiched around Kaehuaea-Credo’s sixth kill.
Kamehameha looked on its way to letting another lead slip in Game 2 after Suiaunoa, with two kills and two blocks, highlighted Waiakea taking five point a row to cut its deficit to 20-17. But Maka’ike’s big swing for a kill steadied Kamehameha and Waiakea was set back by its fourth service error of the set.
Kamehameha built its lead on the serve of Laton Kaaukai, scoring six points in a row, getting two aces from Kaaukai and big contributions from Blane Baclig, including a crowd-pleasing block.
“We talked about it during the third and fourth set, we have to swing,” Thomas said. “They were taking us out of system a lot and our passing wasn’t as crisp as it normally is.”
Game 3 was a barn burner, with Waiakea fighting off five set points before being denied four of its own. On the last one, Waiakea’s fifth service error of the set tied matters 31-31. Kawelu’s ace gave the lead to Kamehameha, which went ahead 2-1 when Suiaunoa hit into the net.
Suiaunoa was otherwise on point with six kills during Game 3, while Maka’ike had six and a big block for Kamehameha.
“The first and second set I wasn’t doing that that well,” Maka’ike said. “I appreciated my teammates giving me feedback. That allowed me to play well.”
During the regular season, Hilo handed Kamehameha its only loss, winning 25-22, 26-24, 16-25, 25-23 on its home court April 6.
“That was a great game, a lot of learning experiences,” Maka’ike said. “I’m excited for (the final).”
Christian Liberty and Konawaena won home matches Monday night in four sets to advance to the Wednesday’s semifinals at Hilo High.
The Canefire (8-6) beat Kohala 25-14, 19-25, 25-13, 25-17, with Josh Rushton leading the way with 25 kills and three blocks. Terrcin Allen collected 17 digs and Chase Cobile posted 36 assists for Christian Liberty, which will play No. 2 seed Hawaii Prep.
The Wildcats (7-7) beat Pahoa 25-18, 22-25, 25-16, 25-21, advancing to face top-seeded Makua Lani.