Kamehameha repeats
as volleyball champ

The Warriors keep the trophy in the
ILH with a sweep of Pearl City

By Tim Crouse

HILO >> While teams were battling it out throughout the week and history was being made Friday, Kamehameha quietly went about its business in a no-nonsense style.

The Warriors didn't need to sweat out close calls. Kamehameha simply went out and defended its state volleyball championship in dominating fashion.

The Warriors beat Pearl City 15-10, 15-9 last night in the championship game of the Nissan State Boys Volleyball Tournament in front of about 2,000 fans at the Afook-Chinen Auditorium.

The Interscholastic League of Honolulu has now won every boys state championship since 1979.

It's the first time in school history Kamehameha has won back-to-back boys titles. The school has won four overall.

"You can't get all riled up with the big picture," Kamehameha coach Pono Maa said. "Whether it's ILH-ILH or OIA-OIA or ILH-OIA, it's the same game every time you (play). You can't treat everything different."

Maa stresses focus every time the Warriors get together to practice or play.

"He says that every day, to just go out and play the game," senior Isaac Kneubuhl said.

Pearl City made history in the semifinals by beating Iolani and becoming the first non-ILH team to reach the title match in 13 years.

The three-time ILH champion Warriors made it look easy in the tournament, winning their six games by an average of 15-6.

Last night, it was a total team effort -- from serving to blocking to hitting.

Kneubuhl and Jarrett Day led the Warriors with nine kills apiece, but it was Day's dynamite serving that turned the tide in Game 2.

Kamehameha trailed 8-3, but battled back on kills by Day and Adam Tuifagu and an ace by Ainoa Miyashiro. Pearl City got another point on a lift call on the Warriors -- before Day took over.

The 6-foot-3 outside hitter blasted three consecutive aces, hitting the back line and sidelines, to tie the game at 9.

"He was hitting corners and not too many people can do that," Pearl City coach Reid Shigemasa said. "He ate us up."

Tuifagu followed with a block, and after a Pearl City timeout, Kneubuhl added a kill for an 11-9 Kamehameha lead.

"We work so hard on digging and passing and the block sets it all up, makes it so much easier," Tuifagu said. "When we got our block going everything else fell into place."

Moments later Kneubuhl won a joust at the net to give the Warriors their 12th point. A Pearl City hitting error put Kamehameha at match point -- and brought Maa out of his seat with an arm raised in the air -- and the Warriors finished off their second straight title when Kneubuhl and Ernest Vidinha teamed for a block.

The Warriors built an 8-3 lead in the first game, with Day getting four kills. Day added another kill to finish off a long rally and give Kamehameha a 10-4 lead.

Then blocking came up huge on three straight points.

Senior middle Willy Melemai had two consecutive solo blocks on Michael Hardy, and Tuifagu added another block on Jonathan Charette to give Kamehameha an insurmountable 13-5 lead.

"Big Willy came up really big tonight," Kneubuhl said. "He was all over the net.

"Our coaches told us to be up there (on the net) and press over and don't do anything individual, (stay with) the team stuff, and we got a bunch of blocks."

Pearl City battled back, getting points on an Elsworth Kaanaana kill and several Warrior mistakes. Charette and Michael Adams teamed for a block to pull the Chargers within 14-10.

But Kneubuhl quickly put down a kill for sideout and Miyashiro ended the game with an ace.

Tuifagu, who missed most of the season after tearing ligaments in his left foot, finished with seven kills and two blocks. The Warriors totaled seven blocks and seven aces.

"It was a big team effort and I'm just glad I could be a part of it," Tuifagu said.

Charette finished with a match-high 12 kills and added three blocks. Michael Hardy chipped in with seven kills.

"We were glad to be here, we were just soaking this all up," said Adams, a senior. "Win or lose, we got here and we played our best. They're a great team. I'm happy for them and they deserved to win."

Said Shigemasa: "If we had won, it would have been the cherry on top of the sundae. We got to the championship game. We didn't win, but we didn't do too bad. I'm proud of the team."

In the third-place match, Iolani defeated Kealakehe 15-9, 15-2.

Even though a state championship was out of reach, the Raiders still played to win.

"I guarantee you there were 20 or more teams out there in the state who would love to be in our place," Iolani coach Luis Ramirez said.

"(The Iolani players are) competitors and they're winners," he said.

Derrick Low led the Raiders with nine kills and setter Sean Carney added seven more. Low also had three blocks and a pair of aces.

Big Island Interscholastic Federation champion Kealakehe finished third at last year's states. Iolani was runner-up last year.

All-Tournament Team

Most Outstanding Player: Isaac Kneubuhl, Kam

>> Jonathan Charette, PC
>> Derrick Low, Iol
>> Sean Carney, Iol
>> Jarrett Day, Kam
>> Willy Melemai, Kam
>> Ainoa Miyashiro, Kam

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