HIGH SCHOOL VOLLEYBALL
Lawson answers the call for Iolani volleyball
Near and far, Iolani brethren are singing the praises of their boys volleyball squad.
By Raider standards, state titles have been a bit tough to come by in the past year. On Saturday, however, Brad Lawson led Iolani to a 25-22, 22-25, 25-20 victory over previously unbeaten Punahou.
For Iolani (16-4), which opened the season at No. 1 in the Star-Bulletin Boys Volleyball Top 10, the late-season descent to No. 6 was rough. The ride back to the top was only sweeter with a win over arch rival Punahou (18-1), ending the Buffanblu's three-year reign on the throne.
For Lawson, who endured back and knee pain late in the season, it took a metamorphosis of sorts to lead the Raiders over the potent, top-seeded Buffanblu. Iolani led the third game 16-14 when a key player, opposite hitter Nick Christman, went down with an injury. Christman accidentally stepped on a Punahou player's foot under the net and injured his ankle.
"When that happened, Brad was in the back row. Up to then, he was having a strong match," Among said. "The momentum of the match switched to Punahou."
Then, as Among watched, Lawson showed something never seen before.
"Because he's such a nice kid, he doesn't really want to put himself above anyone else, but I saw Brad specifically go up to Logan (Nowack), our setter, and say, 'Set me every ball,' " Among said.
The Iolani staff was stunned, even though the humble Lawson was simply heeding advice.
"Before the match we had a conference with Brad," Among said. "We said, 'You're the best player in the nation and you need to believe that yourself. There's gonna be a time when you need to throw the team on your back. and take us to the win.' He knew the team needed him at that point. He rose to the occasion and no one was gonna stop him."
Lawson had 14 of his 25 kills in that final game.
"He had three blockers up almost every time. They were getting blockers up on him even on the back-row attacks. He kept finding a way and finding a way, and having fun at the same time," Among said.
The Raiders simply needed to maintain their small lead.
"We just needed to side out. That's something I learned from Pono (Ma'a), just side out home," Among said. "It was beautiful because we've been trying to do that all season, but last night, they totally separated each play. Whatever happens on a play, good or bad, we celebrate for a little while and drop it and move on to the next one," the coach said.
"Our blocking was much improved and our digging was unbelievable. Logan did a great job. Daniel Hee had a career match. As much as Brad did last night, but his teammates did the little things to win this match," Among said.
With Skyler Tajima leading Iolani's back row and Hee countering Punahou's tough middles, Nowack kept feeding his big monster, Lawson. Lawson had just four hitting errors in more than 50 swings, Among added.
Assistant coach Charlie Jenkins provided the blueprint for the upset victory.
"Instead of Brad staying on the left, we were going to move him all over the place and just try to confuse their blockers," Among said. "Fake left, go right. Fake right, go left."
This state championship is Iolani's second, Punahou has 27 crowns.