All-ILH final in the works
By Wes Nakama
Advertiser Staff Writer
The state boys volleyball champion will come from the Interscholastic League of Honolulu.
That has been true for each of the past 22 years, and this week's tournament in Hilo is expected to have the same result. While there are 12 teams shooting for the crown starting with first-round action tomorrow at Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium, ILH champion Kamehameha (15-1) and runner-up Iolani (14-2) are the overwhelming favorites to meet again in Saturday's final.
"Until somebody else can bring down the ILH teams and win it, only then will the other leagues get some kind of support," said Pearl City coach Reid Shigemasa, whose Chargers (12-1) are the O'ahu Interscholastic Association champion. "And at this point, Kamehameha and Iolani are at the top of the game."
Of course, there are many matches to play and neither Pearl City nor other teams plan to simply roll over.
"We still feel we have every type of chance, just like everybody else," Shigemasa said. "We're not going to give up."
Against the ILH duo, however, the other 10 squads in the tournament are facing challenges that are higher, faster, stronger. Shigemasa saw as much when he went to watch Kamehameha defeat Iolani in five games last Wednesday.
"I know traditionally, their level of play is higher," Shigemasa said. "Their players are tall as well as athletic, and a lot of it too is dealing with their experience. A lot of the ILH players have played in clubs and/or on the intermediate (teams), and only a few of our guys have had that. On OIA teams, you might have one or two really good players on a team, but in the ILH, it's six or eight."
Kamehameha, the defending state champion, still is in the process of organizing its size and talent. Junior Adam Tuifagu, a 6-foot-2 outside hitter, recently returned to the lineup after missing much of the season due to a series of injuries.
In addition to his return, the Warriors have adjusted their defensive specialist position in hopes of balancing improved passing and serving with a strong back row attack.
"We're still a work in progress, still trying to fix things with our new lineup," Kamehameha coach Pono Maa said. "It's not just putting in a new person, it's also getting used to playing with the person next to you."
The Warriors certainly have enough talent to go around. Senior outside hitter Isaac Kneubuhl (6-3) is the reigning Advertiser Player of the Year, and junior setter Ainoa Miyashiro (5-11) also was a first-team All-State selection last year. Tuifagu was a second-team choice, and senior middle blocker Willy Melemai (6-6) and senior outside hitter Jarrett Day (6-3) are playing at all-star levels as well.
As good as Kamehameha is, Iolani defeated the Warriors in the first round and played them almost even in two successive matches.
The Raiders are led by basketball state Player of the Year Derrick Low, a 6-1 junior outside hitter. Low's outstanding leaping ability and powerful swing have helped him emerge as one of Hawai'i's top weapons. He had 24 kills in the loss last Wednesday and 27 kills in Saturday's four-game ILH title match.
"I don't know if there is a defense for that guy," Maa said.
Shigemasa called Low "an offensive juggernaut" who probably would receive college scholarship offers even if he didn't play basketball.
"He'd be easy (NCAA) Division I for volleyball," Shigemasa said.
Iolani also has other strong hitters in senior middle blocker Chad Miller (6-5), junior opposite Todd Blankenship (6-1), sophomore middle blocker BJ Takushi (6-4) and sophomore outside hitter Kyle Pape (6-0). Junior setter Sean Carney (6-3) was second-team All-State last year and also can hit and block.
"They've got good height and good leapers," Shigemasa said. "And their setter is experienced."
Maa described the Raiders' offense as "fast and furious."
Shigemasa said his Chargers, led by senior opposite Jonathan Charette (6-2) and senior outside hitter Kapena Wong (6-1), would have their hands full against that kind of attack. But they are looking forward to the challenge.
"I don't think our guys are intimidated," Shigemasa said. "We just want the opportunity to play."