Kamehameha’s Labor Day Volleyball Classic is a 24-team tournament designed to sharpen the BIIF teams and also serve as a welcome mat for the seven mainland schools.
The three-day tourney runs Thursday through Saturday at the school’s campus, which will be a beehive of activity starting at 3 p.m. the first two days at three different sites.
Out of the 16 Hawaii teams, six qualified for the HHSAA Division I or II tournaments last season.
Heading the pack is Kamehameha-Kapalama, the Division I runner-up. The ILH Warriors will look a little different because their best player, Braelyn Akana, is on the UH Rainbow Wahine roster. Her sister Keonilei Akana is a senior outside hitter and committed to USC as a libero.
Hilo, Kamehameha-Hawaii, Kahuku, and King Kekaulike all qualified for states last year. Konawaena and Seabury Hall advanced to the Division II state tourney.
The BIIF teams include host Kamehameha, Hilo, Kealakehe, Keaau, and Kealakehe from Division I, and Konawaena, Ka’u, and Christian Liberty from Division II, and Enriques is particularly excited about four of the California teams in the field: The Bishop School (San Diego), Valencia (Santa Clarita), Eastlake (Chula Vista) and San Joaquin Memorial (Fresno).
“We’ve got a lot of new teams, seven from the mainland,” Kamehameha coach Guy Enriques said. “Four are pretty darn good, and three I’m not sure about. We’ve got good Oahu teams, and it’ll be a really good competitive tournament.”
The second-year coach hopes the tourney serves as a sharpening tool for the league, which hasn’t had a team advance to the Division I semifinals since 2010. That year, Waiakea lost in straight sets to Kamehameha-Kapalama.
It figures to be Kamehameha’s best shot for a deep run at states for the foreseeable future. The team’s two best players are senior outside hitters Nani Spaar and Tiani Bello.
Last year, Kohala won the league’s Division II title, ending Konawaena’s four-year championship run. The Wildcats won the state title in 2014 for a championship repeat, but that was the penultimate season for Chanelle Molina, who’s now a senior on the basketball team at Washington State.
“We would love it if our conference were stronger,” Enriques said. “Hopefully, the tourney will prepare teams to play at the state level. We’re far from that, but the kids will see a different level of play.”
The tourney is also a welcome mat for the mainland teams and a bonding experience with the sister Warriors from Oahu. They’ll sleep in Koaia gym.
“We get to share the Hawaii culture with the mainland teams in a volleyball environment,” Enriques said.
The mainland teams will also give the local economy a boost. But most of all the tourney is a measuring stick for the host Warriors, who know that the clock is ticking on them.
“Hopefully at the very least, we’ll be competitive with those teams, and we’ll find out how close or far away we are from those teams,” Enriques said.
The teams are split into six pools at Koaia Gym, Kamehameha’s middle school, La’amea, and Keaau High for the opening day. They’ll be receded into six pools Friday, with 16 teams advancing into a championship bracket Saturday and eight heading to a consolation bracket. The final day begins at 9 a.m., with semifinals slated for 2 p.m. and the championship at 3:15 p.m.