Yuval Katz slams one of his nine kills in the final of the Hawaii State Four-Man Beach volleyball tournament. Photo by Kathryn Bender, Star-Bulletin
By Cindy Luis
Katz sparks Team Erik to title in Hawaii State Four-Man volleyball
Katz put down an unofficial nine kills and added the match-winning ace to lead second-seeded Team Erik over Team Troy, 15-7, in the final of the inaugural $1,800 Bud Light Hawaii State Four-Man Beach Volleyball Tournament. The victorious team was comprised of Katz, the University of Hawaii's two-time All-American, and three former Rainbows - Erik Pichel, Sean Scott and Masui Allen.
"My strategy was I wanted to block Yuval but it didn't happen," said Hotz, another Rainbow who worked at stopping Katz the past two seasons in practice. "He was going over us, around us ... he found every hole possible. We knew they were going to go to him but he's just too strong.
"We really had to work for our points. With Erik (Pichel) serving well, they were just unstoppable."
Team Troy led twice in the title match, the last at 4-3, before Team Erik ran off five straight points for an 8-4 advantage. Team Troy closed to 8-6 but Pichel served four straight points, including three aces. Two sideouts later, it was over when Peter Pua was unable to pass Katz's serve.
"I'd have to say it was too much Yuvi," said Team Troy setter Dave Chaihen.
Team Troy, made up of Keahole Volleyball Association players Hotz, Chaihen, Pat Boyer, and Peter and Chad Pua, picked up $600 for finishing second. The champions passed on the $1,200 first-place prize in order to retain their amateur status.
Sharing third were Team Kahinu (Kahinu Lee, Rick Tune, Kealii Alexander, Kealii Bandman) and Team Dean (Dean Hirahara, Larsen Villiamu, Mel Mulligan, Peni Tufuga). Team Kahinu lost to Team Erik, 15-11, in the semifinal while Team Troy outlasted Team Dean in the other semifinal, 15-13.
Top-seeded Team Riggers (Jon Andersen, Marc Haine, Stevie Li, Josh Helbing) was undefeated in pool play but, because the foursome had given up the most pool-play points, the team was seeded third in the championship round and did not receive a bye. Team Riggers was eliminated by Team Dean, 15-11, while Team Pono (Pono Maa, Keoki Shupe, Kanoa Ostrem, Jason Hodell), fell behind Team Kahinu, 8-1 before finally being ousted 17-15.
No. 7 seed Team Kahinu was nearly the Cinderella of the 12-team tournament. The foursome served twice for game point against the top seeds in their pool play match, only to lose, 16-14.
They were extended by Team Pono in the quarterfinal and hung tough against the eventual champions, Team Erik, in the semis. Team Kahinu held off five match points while rallying from 7-14 to 11-14, with the fourth consecutive point coming when Tune stuffed Rainbow teammate Katz.
Katz returned the favor by blocking Tune for a sideout, then closed out the match with an ace into the back corner of the court.
"It was very nice to block that boy," Tune said of stopping Katz. "That's a real rarity.
"We just ran out of gas but there are no excuses. Erik's team is a great team and they deserved to win it all."
"It was nice to win," said Pichel, who concluded his Hawaii career last month as the leading setter in the country.
"The crowd was fun (an estimated 2,500) and I'm glad my serve was working at the end. I don't think we were putting any pressure on ourselves. If we won, we won. We wanted to have fun."
Tournament director Chuck Monson was pleased with the results, promising that next year's event would be bigger and better. He said he would like to add a women's open division to theevent.
It's unlikely that Team Erik will be back to defend its title. Katz said he is nearly 100 percent sure of turning professional and passing on his last two years of collegiate eligibility.
Katz, who has enrolled at UH for the fall semester, said he is weighing some offers from Europe and Brazil, and is no longer interested in playing in Japan.