Kahuku bounces back to hand Kalaheo a loss
KEN IGE / KIGE@STARBULLETIN.COM Kahuku's Hapaki Kaululaau hit over the
block of Kalaheo's Chris Tumaneng
during the Red Raiders' win yesterday.
Kahuku boys volleyball coach Howard Kaululaau spent as much time the past few days on his team's mind-set as he did on fine-tuning its offense.
It all paid off yesterday afternoon in Kailua, where the Red Raiders dropped Kalaheo from the ranks of the unbeaten in an impressive 25-21, 25-22 win over the Mustangs in Oahu Interscholastic Association Eastern Conference play.
The win lifted the Red Raiders to 2-1 for the season and helped erase the memory of a difficult (25-21, 26-24) loss to Kaimuki earlier in the week.
"We had a heartbreaker (with Kaimuki) this week, and I talked a lot to the kids about bouncing back," Kaululaau said.
Added Red Raider setter Andrew Thompson: "We were focused and determined after that (loss to Kaimuki). The whole team bounced back from that loss."
While Thompson's assertiveness best typified Kahuku's grit on this day, the Red Raiders also received strong performances from Hapaki Kaululaau and Brandon Carr, who finished with seven and five kills, respectively.
"We have a team of all-around players," said Kaululaau. "We don't have just one go-to player, and that helps us out a lot. Today, the first game was a big factor for us. I think that helped us a lot."
Indeed, the Red Raiders had not won their first game in any match this season before yesterday, and it looked as if they would be denied again in Game 1 as Kalaheo pressed the issue early en route to a 6-2 lead. But Kahuku tied the Mustangs at 8-all and took the lead moments later on a dink point from Thompson.
Kalaheo (3-1) eventually rebuilt its lead to 16-12 with 6-foot-7 outside hitter Sam Wilhoite providing three tallies -- one on a kill and two on a pair of blocks with help from teammates Chris Tumaneng and Mana Guerreiro -- in a 4-0 run by the Mustangs. Kahuku responded by scoring four straight points to tie the game, however, and forced Kalaheo to expend a time out. From there, the Red Raiders led the rest of the way in Game 1, largely behind the serves of Thompson.
"The first game was a huge win for us," Thompson said. "We had a lot of confidence after that because we hadn't won the first game in a match yet this year."
Neither team led by more than three in Game 2. A Kalaheo error helped the Red Raiders produce the last of six lead changes for a 23-22 advantage. Kaululaau and Carr followed with back-to-back kills to close out the match.
"It was good that we took it in two games and didn't have to go to a third," Kaululaau said. "For us, the difference was definitely our setting. We'd been having problems with our setting, and this week in practice we changed a little bit of our offense to get it going, and that was a big factor as well as our communication on the court.
"Andrew (Thompson) was big for us today," he continued. "He got the ball to our hitters, and we had good passing from the back row. Without your passing, you can't get the set. And with a beautiful set, you get the hits and the kills."
Elias Ayau had five kills for Kalaheo in Game 2, but a handful of service errors also helped seal the Mustangs' fate.
"I believe we could have done a better job on defense," Kalaheo coach Sivan Leoni said. "We rarely covered our hitters, and we rarely got on the floor when they attacked. Many times they dinked the ball right over the block, and none of our defenders picked it up, so that's something we have to work on."
In other action, the Kahuku girls team beat the Mustangs 25-8, 25-11 in a match that took just 47 minutes. Musie Olevao had five kills and an ace to lead the Red Raiders, who improved to 4-1. The Lady Mustangs are 1-4.