Kamehameha captures state volleyball crown
By Wes Nakama
Advertiser Staff Writer
The Kamehameha Schools boys volleyball team won its first state championship since 1993 last night, denying Iolani, 15-8, 15-13, before a vocal crowd of 2,856 at Blaisdell Arena.
"I think this raises the level of our program, because we were always perceived as a team that was good but couldn't finish," said Kamehameha senior Rickey Estrada, who had a match-high 18 digs. "We finally did it tonight."
Iolani, however, stretched the Warriors to the limit in the second game with a furious, seemingly endless rally.
Senior middle blocker Tyler McCready started the comeback with a kill to make it 12-2. Three Kamehameha errors and an ace by Sean Carney helped bring the Raiders to 13-8, prompting the Warriors to call time.
But Iolani's rally continued, on a kill by Jonathan Grobe. Two four-hit calls on Kamehameha and a kill by Carney made it 13-12.
"We're a ball-control team, and (Iolani) had some problems in that area early on," Warriors coach Pono Maa said. "But when they steadied on their side, that's when we had trouble."
Kamehameha got to 14-12 on a kill by Isaac Kneubuhl, but the Raiders answered with a kill by Derrick Low.
The Warriors then had seven chances to put the match away, only to be denied each time.
"I'm very proud of our guys," Iolani coach Luis Ramirez said. "I would have been upset if we lost 15-1, but they came back and gave it all they had. They showed a lot of heart."
Said Grobe: "We stayed together and stayed proud."
Kamehameha finally won it on the hitting error, something the Warriors did not commit often. Kamehameha hit .548 for the match, led by Kneubuhl's 18 kills and eight kills each by Estrada, Willy Melemai and Adam Tuifagu.
The Warriors also excelled on defense, notching 51 digs. Setter Ainoa Miyashiro had 11 digs.
"We kept coming at them, but they didn't give us any breaks," Ramirez said. "They were very consistent on defense."
Grobe led the Raiders with 17 kills and McCready added 10 kills. Eric Ideta had eight digs for Iolani.
Estrada's brother Thad was a member of two state baseball championship teams for Iolani, but this was Rickey's first state title.
"Oh man," Rickey said, "I wanted this so bad."
Kealakehe (17-2) took third place by defeating Kalaheo, 15-9, 15-9. Kana Bento led the Waveriders with 10 kills and Kyle Teves added eight kills and four blocks.
Matt Liulama had eight kills and Bubba Kaho'one had five kills and five digs for Kealakehe.
Justin Pedrina led Kalaheo (12-5) with 10 kills and four digs.
Kamehameha defeated Kealakehe, 15-4, 15-9, and Iolani defeated Kalaheo, 15-12, 15-2.
The Warriors scored the final seven points of the first game to win going away, then jumped out to a 12-1 lead in the second game before holding off a mini rally by Kealakehe.
Bento, a middle blocker, led Kealakehe with a match-high 15 kills, and outside hitters Kaho'one and Liulama each added five kills. Estrada led the Warriors with eight kills, and sophomore outside hitter Tuifagu added six kills. David Hoke contributed five kills and five blocks, and Melemai had five kills for Kamehameha, which hit .323 for the match.
In the other semifinal, the Raiders ran off 12 unanswered points to lead the first game 12-3, but the Mustangs scored nine of the next 11 to close it to 14-12. Grobe finally ended it with a kill for Iolani.
The Raiders scored the final 13 points of the second game.
Grobe finished with a match-high nine kills, four digs and two aces to lead Iolani. McCready added seven kills and Low had six kills for the Raiders, who hit .491.
Pedrina and Nate Jenkins each had eight kills to lead Kalaheo, and Pedrina also had four digs.