Dragons get a do-over: Honokaa volleyball seniors appreciate ‘good experience’

  • Honokaa's Ana Malia Kim sets the ball for a teammate during a match against Kamehameha in Keaau on Saturday, May 8, 2021. (Kelsey Walling/Hawaii Tribune-Herald)

  • Honokaa's Emery Eberhard serves the ball to Kamehameha during a match in Keaau on Saturday, May 8, 2021. (Kelsey Walling/Hawaii Tribune-Herald)

  • Honokaa's Sherwin Acob sets the ball for his teammates during a match against Kamehameha in Keaau on Saturday, May 8, 2021. (Kelsey Walling/Hawaii Tribune-Herald)

  • Honokaa's Talon Muramura digs the ball during a match against Kamehameha in Keaau on Saturday, May 8, 2021. (Kelsey Walling/Hawaii Tribune-Herald)

  • Honokaa's Diesel Martinez spikes the ball over Kamehameha's Khayden Kahihikolo, left, and Micah Mahuna during a match on Saturday, May 8, 2021. (Kelsey Walling/Hawaii Tribune-Herald)

  • Honokaa's Jesiah Oneil-Salazar attempts to save the ball as it goes out of bounds during a match against Kamehameha in Keaau on Saturday, May 8, 2021. (Kelsey Walling/Hawaii Tribune-Herald)

KEAAU — Even in defeat, Honokaa’s boys volleyball team shared a distinction that would last more than a year.

Diesel Martinez and the Dragons dropped a three-setter at Keaau on March 13 of last year, then they boarded a bus that, athletically speaking, had no destination.

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“Just school and work,” Martinez said of his activities of much of the past 15 months.

The Dragons-Cougars volleyball match was the last BIIF competition held before Hawaii high school sports were shut down because of the pandemic. At the time, the shutdown was to last “at least a week.”

Two, maybe three tops, Martinez figured at the time.

“It was unexpected, but I guess a lot of people took it for granted,” he said.

Honokaa, especially its seniors — also including Emery Eberhard, Jesiah Oneil-Salazar, Talon Muramaru and Ana Malia Lim and Sakari Yadao (two of the three females on the team) — weren’t inclined to take nearly as much for granted Saturday at Kamehameha, least of all the power of a thunderous spike off the hand of the Warriors’ Chase Bridges-Hunter.

“It was mostly about competing and supporting each other in our last games of senior year,” Eberhard said.

As was expected, Bridges-Hunter and Kamehameha had the Dragons scrambling in a sweep that took roughly an hour.

“Chase is my best friend, we’ve played volleyball, football, basketball together,” Martinez said. “It’s fun. It’s competitive, but it’s also fun.”

He’s a fourth-year volleyball player, but, of course, the third season was cut short and his final one was condensed, and he also missed final seasons of football and basketball.

“I missed volleyball the most, actually, but then we were able to play, so I’d say football,” he said

The Dragons, he said, were looking forward to a competitive football season in their return to Division II.

Eberhard, a first-time varsity volleyball, was the one to talk to in regards to a scouting report on what could have been for Honokaa basketball. He feels the Dragons could have given Kohala and Hawaii Prep a push in BIIF D-II.

“I think (we) would have been really good, I think we would have had a much better shot,” the 2020 all-BIIF honorable mention selection said. “More chemistry and more maturity as a team.”

With college forward height, Eberhard is set to follow in the footsteps of his dad, Brent, and play for UH-Hilo, though it wasn’t easy earning the opportunity. With precious little gym time available, Honokaa coach Jayme Carvalho held some workouts outside, Eberhard said, but mostly he’s trained with teammates or in the garage.

He contacted Vulcans coach Kaniela Aiona and sent him what tape he had available. Brent Eberhard was a former Vulcans teammate of Carvalho.

“This was a really difficult year to get recruited, and this year was probably the most important for me,” Emery Eberhard said. “Because I developed later, so senior year I was going to get a lot better than junior year. Big step there, but I never got it, so I just tried to work out on my own, and I have a lot of motivation for that.”

Honokaa has a senior day on tap Thursday against Konawaena, though it might not be able to match Kamehameha’s. Sitting socially distanced Saturday, the Warriors’ senior parents were able to attend at Koaia Gym.

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But when Martinez left on the bus this time, he had a destination, athletically and beyond. He’s going to attend Hawaii Community College and study electrical work.

“We’ve grown, individually, each of us,” he said. “This season has been a good experience. At least we got to play some games.”

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