Volleyball revs up at Hilo
The World Tour of Hawaii's two-time defending state champion resumes tomorrow.
This time, the top-ranked Kamehameha Warriors depart to a land where volleyball, in many ways, is tradition. In Hilo, volleyball is second only to the Merrie Monarch, and some old-timers would argue otherwise.
That's where the intertwining world of volleyball, both varsity and club, comes to a little knot. Although Kamehameha has its top seeding and a first-round bye when the New City Nissan State Volleyball Championships begin tomorrow, the town will welcome back one of its own in Moanalua's Kaleinani Kabalis.
The talented senior grew up in Hilo and played for her mother, Carla Carpenter-Kabalis, at Hilo High as a freshman. Then the youngster followed the path of her older sister, Kahala, and moved to Honolulu to live with her grandmother and play at Moanalua.
Kamehameha could wind up facing second-seeded Moanalua in the final, and that in itself would be fascinating. The Warriors have both unsurpassed work ethic and talent in leaders Kanani Herring, Bekah Torres, Jordan Meredith and many more. They also have a horde of alumni who live on the Big Island and will certainly cheer on all three Kamehameha entries.
Na Menehune are hardly looking that far ahead. They could face second-ranked Punahou in the quarterfinals on Thursday.
"We pulled together just in time," coach Tommy Lake said of the OIA championship. "We may have a chance against Punahou, but we haven't fared too well against them in the past."
If the Kamehameha squad faces Moanalua and the hottest player in the state -- Kabalis -- the rafters at ancient Afook-Chinen Hilo Civic Auditorium will certain shake and tremble.
"Moanalua was on fire," Blake said after watching his recordings of the OIA semifinals and final.
The Warriors traveled to Las Vegas last month and placed third in the prestigious Durango Tournament. Time off since last Tuesday's ILH title match has been beneficial.
"We also use it as a chance to get back to basics, review some things we might have forgotten as the season goes along," coach Chris Blake said. "As much as they play year-round, sometimes the break can be a little bit good."
The showdown of Kamehameha and Moanalua, of course, is a big 'if.' The state's No. 2-ranked team, Iolani, is unseeded and will face Mililani tomorrow. The winner will deal with Kamehameha-Maui. Iolani, led by Leinani Keanini, Lauren Minkel and middle Chelsea Hardin, held down the No. 1 ranking for a few weeks after upsetting Kamehameha.
Roosevelt could pose a pesky challenge to the Warriors if it gets into the quarterfinal round. If Kamehameha advances, the next foe could be a defensive-minded Kamehameha-Hawaii squad, coached by longtime guru Tammy Lee. Or it could be perennial powerhouse Kahuku.
There's no question, though, that the opposite bracket will be filled with fireworks. Punahou takes on Kalani, with the winner facing Moanalua. However the chips fall, this bracket is filled with danger for all.
Meanwhile, at McKinley and Radford High Schools, the Division II championships have longtime small-school power Hawaii Baptist lined up as the top seed. After years of battling against the Big 3 giants -- Kamehameha, Iolani and Punahou -- the Eagles are finally competing against schools that are similar in enrollment. Their many close finishes in the ILH earned them the top nod from the seeding committee.
"It's an honor to get the one-seed," HBA coach Myles Shioji said. "But we're not the favorites just because of that seed."
The Eagles have some size with middles Sarah Palmer (5-10) and Leah Shirizu (5-9). Shioji says the frustration of battling the ILH's big programs is long gone.
"If you're looking into the past, you're not going to help the girls playing in the present," he said.
While Seabury Hall brings an unbeaten Maui Interscholastic League record to the tourney, the committee reviewed the Spartans' spotty historical performance in state play. The Spartans may be ranked higher than HBA in the Top 10 poll, but they have yet to impress the committee.
"I fully agree with how they seeded us," coach Scott Zucco said. "I thought we would be seeded third or fourth."
Star-Bulletin Top 10 poll
| 1. Kamehameha, 19-1 (12)
| 2. Iolani, 16-2
||lost to Kamehameha
| 3. Punahou, 15-3
||none last week
| 4. Moanalua, 10-4
| 5. Kahuku, 12-3
||lost to Moanalua
| 6. Roosevelt, 12-3
||state first round
| 7. Seabury Hall, 12-0
||none last week
| 8. Hawaii Baptist, 14-4
||none last week
| 9. KS-Hawaii, 14-1
|10. Sacred Hearts, 11-7
||none last week
» Voted on by coaches and media from around the state
» First-place votes in parentheses
» 10 points for first-place vote, 9 for second, 8 for third; etc.
» Also received votes: Mililani 8, Kamehameha-Maui 6, McKinley 5, Molokai 5, Farrington 1, Hilo 1, Honokaa 1, Word of Life 1
» No longer in top 10 (previous rank): Mililani (tied at No. 8)