In 2016, Sam Thomas had a very proud moment as a parent and volleyball coach when the Tribune-Herald’s Big Island College Report touted the success of three of his players.
His son Ryan Thomas (2012 Kamehameha graduate), Evan Enriques (2014), and Kekaulike Alameda (2015) all ranked in the NCAA’s Top 10 for digs per set.
Back then, Thomas was a senior and tied for third at 3.03 digs per set at the University of Mount Olive in North Carolina, Enriques was a Stanford sophomore and 10th (2.65 dps), and Alameda was a freshman at Barton College in North Carolina and fifth (2.93 dps) in the nation.
With Guy Enriques and Coach Sam as coaches, Kamehameha was turning into a factory for producing ball-control liberos for colleges. A lot of BIIF players also played for Ecko Osorio’s club team, Pilipaa, too.
Ryan Thomas and Alameda grew up together and lived on the same street, so Coach Sam nicknamed the neighborhood Libero Town USA.
The Alameda household also included Angel Alameda, a 2014 Hilo graduate, who shared one of the most legendary BIIF sibling rivalries with her brother Kekaulike.
At Eastern Arizona College, Angel piled up an unbelievable 47 digs, which set the bar in the Alameda household and put Kekaulike on fire to pass his sister. Angel’s record still stands for a BIIF player in college.
On April 8, Coach Sam looked sick to his stomach, like he ate something terrible.
He was at Koaia Gym and had just watched his Warriors prevail over Christian Liberty in four sets, but it wasn’t an enjoyable night for the coach, who’s a ball-control expert.
The Warriors committed 54 unforced errors (hitting and serving), including 16 from the service line, an average of 13.5 giveaway points and four from the service line.
In Games 2 and 3, they had 17 unforced errors in each set, including six service errors in Game 3. The starters won Game 2, but the bench lost the third set.
“We pride ourselves on ball-control, and it just wasn’t here,” he said. “We just made too many mistakes, too many serving errors, too many hitting errors. I can’t remember a time when we had that many errors.”
It was like Gordon Ramsey burning your steak. You just don’t expect that and neither did Coach Sam.
Hall of Fame coach Sharon Peterson made Big Island volleyball famous for being mentally tough. Her motto, “The game is played from the neck up,” will live forever.
If boys BIIF volleyball is defined by anything, it’s ball-control, refined and polished by Thomas, Enriques, and Osorio.
In fact, that’s seen in the Enriques brothers (Evan, Emmett, Avery, and Addison), the greatest set of BIIF siblings and all Division I liberos. There are actually five brothers, including half-brother Cory, who played at UH-Manoa.
Only the Molina sisters (Chanelle, Celena Jane, and Cherilyn), for Washington State basketball, come remotely close.
The youngest brothers, Avery (Grand Canyon) and Addison (Concordia), are still in college and not eligible for the Top 10 BIIF boys since 2000. But in another decade, the brothers may well fill the top four spots.
So, it’s no surprise about who’s occupying the top two spots:
1.) Evan Enriques, a 2014 Kamehameha graduate, was a three-time BIIF player of the year. As a freshman, he also landed on the first team.
The Warriors finished runner-up to Punahou twice at the HHSAA Division I tournament, and both times he was voted the state’s best player.
As a sophomore, the 6-foot-2 Enriques put on one of the greatest performances in state history in a five-set loss to eventual champion Punahou. He blasted 42 kills on 114 swings and accumulated 12 digs.
At Stanford, he was a three-time All-American and started the wave of top BIIF outside hitters transitioning to libero in college.
2.) Emmett Enriques, a 2015 Kamehameha graduate, played under his older brother’s shadow for three years but was named BIIF player of the year as a senior.
In the state championship four-set loss to Punahou, the 6-1 Enriques clobbered 33 kills on 90 swings.
Like his brother, he switched to libero in college and played two seasons at Cal Baptist, which cut its program, before joining Cal State Northridge.
3.) Mamane Namahoe, a 2014 Waiakea graduate, was Evan Enriques’ biggest rival and a well-rounded player as well.
The 6-foot outside hitter was a three-time All-BIIF first-team pick and made the second team as a freshman.
During his four years, he led the Warriors to BIIF titles in 2013 and ’11. As a junior, Namahoe had a stellar performance against Kamehameha for the BIIF title with 20 kills and 12 digs in a five-set win at Koaia Gym.
He later played for the Rainbow Warriors, who featured All-American libero Joe Worsley at the time.
4.) Ryan Thomas, a 2012 Kamehameha graduate, was an All-BIIF rarity throughout his career. At 6 feet, he was tall enough to play at outside hitter but preferred preventing a point instead of producing one. He set the ball-control foundation and played, as a junior, with Evan Enriques in his freshman year in 2011. In that classic 2012 state championship loss to Punahou, Thomas collected 19 digs.
5.) Napua Canda, a 2005 Waiakea graduate, was the BIIF player of the year in his senior season and led the Warriors to a BIIF crown and third-place finish at states.
He was a late bloomer with volleyball, starting the sport as a sophomore at Waiakea. But the Waiakea coach is a product of hard work.
He joined Pilipaa after his junior season, and the team won the Junior Olympic championship that summer in Texas. The 6-2 middle blocker later played college ball at Orange Coast College in California.
6.) Kyle Hanagami, a 2011 Waiakea graduate, was the BIIF player of the year in his senior season and led the Warriors to a BIIF championship.
The 5-6 setter was rather inexperienced. He only started setting as a junior.
He was a four-year starter at Grand View, an NAIA team in Iowa, and holds the career record with 2,601 assists. He was also part of the 2012 inaugural class.
In his junior and season seasons, the Vikings won consecutive conference titles and advanced to the NAIA national tournament semifinals.
7.) Kyle Teves, a 2004 Kealakehe graduate, is a rarity who made the Top 10 for two sports. He was also No. 7 for BIIF basketball, where he was the player of the year as a senior.
In volleyball, Teves was the BIIF player of the year as a senior, when the Waveriders won their third straight league title.
8.) Chandler Kaaa, a 2009 Kamehameha graduate, was the BIIF player of the year as a senior and 6-4 setter.
He later played at Stanford, where setter Kawika Shoji, who was the national player of the year in 2010, played from 2007 to ’10.
Kaaa comes from a volleyball family. His dad, Kyle Kaaa, was the Kamehameha girls coach. His sister Acacia Kaaa landed on the All-BIIF first team as a setter in 2012 and later played at New Mexico Highlands University.
9.) DJ Wong, a 2013 Kohala graduate, was the Division II player of the year as a junior when he led the Cowboys to the BIIF title, their first since 1994.
The 6-1 outside hitter, who built a reputation as a hard worker, played at Graceland University, an NAIA school in Iowa with teammate Chris Roxburgh.
In an interesting twist, Wong was named a first-team All-American as a libero in his senior season.
10.) Dylan Salmo, a 2017 Pahoa graduate, led the Daggers to a Division II runner-up finish as a junior 5-5 setter/hitter.
He’ll forever be an inspiration for the small-school Daggers. Salmo had a 3.2 GPA and landed a scholarship to Judson University, an NAIA school in Illinois for its inaugural season. Salmo, who like the others made the switch to libero, was the first in his family to go to college and get a scholarship.