SALT LAKE — After five straight years of heartbreak, Moanalua finally broke through Thursday night.
Austin Matautia had match-highs of 29 kills and 15 digs to lead second-seeded Moanalua to a four-set win over third-seeded Kamehameha-Hawaii in a semifinal match of the New City Nissan/Hawaii High School Athletic Association Division I Boys Volleyball State Championships. The scores were 25-17, 25-19, 19-25 and 25-18.
It was a meeting of unbeatens teams in the Oahu Interscholastic Association champion Na Menehune (16-0) and Big Island Interscholastic Federation titlist Warriors (15-1).
Moanalua had also reached the semifinal round in each of the last five seasons, but lost each time — the last two times coming at the hands of KS-Hawaii, which lost to Punahou both times.
"It feels so good, especially in my senior year," said Matautia, a 6-foot-4 senior outside hitter. "This is a year we can do it. Each year we had a chance and each year we fell short and this year we finally did it. We finally put it together and we finally pulled out the win."
Na Menehune coach Alan Cabanting, whose team has finished third the past five seasons, was finally able to breathe a sign of relief after the match.
"These kids, all of them — Austin, all the seniors — they've worked so hard all four years and every year that they've been with me, we get to this point and we just couldn't make it happen and it's great to see the reward for this bunch of seniors to be able to get over that hump finally and that third-place curse that everyone talks about here at Moanalua and to be able to just take it," Cabanting said. "I can't even explain it. It's an awesome feeling."
The win didn't come without its share of adversity.
Starting setter Zackary Miyamoto left the match in the third set, but Cabanting said it was due to a muscle cramp in his Miyamoto's left calf and he expects the junior to play in Friday's state championship match against top-seeded Punahou.
"The fact that they stuck together when one of their teammates went out, that made it even more impactful for this group and how important it was to stick together as a team," Cabanting said.
Zach Kagehiro moved over from the libero position to setter after Miyamoto's exit and finished with 20 assists, 12 digs and three of his team's five service aces.
"We had to dig deep, we had to just play as a team, we had to play together and we had to play for Zack that was the main thing. Without Zach Kagehiro and Zack Miyamoto we just would be nowhere without them and they just did such a good job distributing the ball tonight."
Kagehiro, a 5-foot-8 senior, got extensive reps at setter this week while Miyamoto, a 5-foot-10 junior, was out due to illness.
"That was a huge help," Matautia said. "Without that I don't think we would have been able to come out on top tonight and without that resourceful thinking of changing our libero to setter, tonight would have been a whole different story."
Miyamoto had 18 assists, two digs and a block. Nalu Demello added 11 kills and Seyj Engleman added 14 digs and five kills for Moanalua, which hit .191 for the match.
Matautia, a University of Hawaii signee, had just seven errors on 47 swings and hit .468.
"Austin had a great night," KS-Hawaii coach Guy Enriques said. "We couldn't stop him. We knew what they were doing, we just couldn't stop him."
Twin brothers Avery and Addison Enriques paced the Warriors with 12 kills apiece. Addison also had 13 digs and four blocks — both team-high marks. Kameron Moses chipped in 19 assists and Jai Makuakane had 17 assists. Both setters contributed seven digs for the Warriors, who hit just .129 and committed 13 service errors.
"Normally, on any given night we're the better serving team. Tonight we were not and that's our bread and butter," Guy Enriques said. "We just did not do well. That's it. That's a good team that we lost to, but it was all us — that's the way I look at it. You can't be disappointed if you don't do what you've been training to do."
The Warriors played without senior outside hitter/opposite Isaiah Laeha, who had 25 kills in a win over Kamehameha-Kapalama Wednesday but suffered a knee injury late in the match.
Kamehameha-Hawaii will play OIA runner-up Mililani for third place at 3:30 p.m. at the Neal S. Blaisdell Center Arena.
First serve between Moanalua and Punahou is set for 7 p.m.
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