HHSAA Boys Volleyball
Kawaa's 30-kill night powers Moanalua past Kamehameha, into D1 state final


Fri, May 6, 2022 @ Moanalua [ 7:00 pm ]

FINAL  1   2   3   4   5      
KSK (11-7) 28 21 25 20 14 2
MOA (15-1) 26 25 20 25 16 3
Kill: K. Kawaa (MOA) 30 kills

SALT LAKE — It would certainly be fair to say that Keanu Kawaa rose to the occasion Friday night. 

Kawaa put down 30 kills in front of an emphatic home crowd to will No. 4 Moanalua past No. 2 Kamehameha in a thrilling five-set semifinal match of the New City Nissan/HHSAA Division I Boys Volleyball State Championships. 

The set scores were 26-28, 25-21, 20-25, 25-20 and 16-14. 

Moanalua, the Oahu Interscholastic Association champion and No. 2 seed in the 12-team tournament, will try for its first state title Saturday when it takes on perennial powerhouse Punahou — which will be seeking its record-38th state championship and ninth in a row. 

"It was amazing," Na Menehune coach Alan Cabanting said. "It was amazing. The guys, I believed in them the whole time. You know, we said, ‘Hey, if we play our best, we'll be able to take care of it.' We maintained our composure. As horrible as our serves were, we were able to get back into it and side-out as efficiency as we do."

Indeed, Moanalua struggled at the service line to the tune of one ace against 19 errors, but Kamehameha did not fare much better as it also racked up 19 service errors against three aces. 

But the stats were of little consequence to the Menes at the end of the night; all that mattered was they got the win. 

"It feels so amazing," said Kawaa, a 6-foot-2 outside hitter and one of four seniors on the team. 

"I asked my team before we started off that fifth set, if they can just help me and take all of our seniors to that championship match after the past two years not being able to have playoffs and states because of COVID; I'm just speechless what my team just did for all of us," Kawaa added. 

After the teams split the first two sets, the Warriors pulled ahead with a 25-20 win in set 3. However, the Menes took set 4 by the same score to even the match before it went to a deciding fifth set. 

Kamehameha used a 4-0 run to turn a one-point deficit into an 8-5 lead midway through set 5. AyJa Miller and Dylan Friedl teamed for back-to-back blocks on Moanalua attacks, but three consecutive errors by the Warriors knotted the score at 8. 

After a service error by the Menes, they scored five of the next six points to surge ahead, 13-10. A few points later, they had their first shot at match point after Kawaa put away a kill from the left side, off an assist from Malu Wilcox, to make the score 14-11. But the Warriors retaliated with three straight points, capped by Laiakeaoaloaliilani Hirahara's cross-court kill to tie it at 14. 

However, the ensuing Kamehameha serve was out to give Moanalua another shot at match point. The Warriors were whistled for a back row attacker violation on the ensuing play to finish off the match. 

Cabanting said that he challenged Kawaa to shoulder even more of the load in the final set. 

"Yes, absolutely and Kamehameha made some really, really good plays on those first couple of points, but I went to Keanu and I said, ‘Hey, you gotta carry the team, you just gotta carry the team. Once you get in the front row, every ball, we're going to have to get it to you,' " he said. 

Kawaa said that it was a matter of the Menes focusing in on their own execution against the Warriors, who were seeking their first appearance in a state final since 2013. 

"We just had to play our own game, stay in our own minds and just make sure we play how we play the whole season and just play how we play," Kawaa said. 

"(Cabanting) told us to just forget the score, just play one point at a time, just play our game from there and do what we do best." 

Cabanting said after his team dropped a back-and-forth first set, he encouraged them to continue to attack the ball. 

"I kept telling them, ‘We gotta swing, we gotta swing.' After we lost that first set, 28-26, on a tip to the bottom of the net, I said, ‘Hey, if we're going to go down, we're going to go down swinging, so you guys gotta swing,' " he implored. 

Kawaa had 13 attack errors and hit .200; He took more than half (85) of Moanalua's 169 total attempts. 

"I feel like I did alright carrying the load, (but) I had a lot of support from Christian (Tafao), Keola (Demerol), Cody (Bonilla), Jaycen (Bush) — our diggers on defense, they all put up great numbers today — it was just amazing," Kawaa said. 

Tafao tallied 13 kills and 16 digs, Bonilla had five kills and three digs, Demello was in on three blocks and had two kills and Bush chipped in with four kills and a pair of digs. Libero Kaden Sato registered 14 digs and the setting duo of Wilcox (21 assists, 12 digs) and AJ Matsumoto (24 assists, 11 digs) each had a double-double. 

"It was one of those where it's like we have the opportunity to be able to put it together," Cabanting said. It was one of those where it's been a roller coaster, you just never know what we're gonna get with these guys."

The teams combined to take 334 swings. Moanalua hit .166 to Kamehameha's .133. 

The Warriors tallied 10 team blocks to four for the Menes. 

Hirahara racked up 16 kills and 11 digs for Kamehameha. Heston Cabinian had 13 kills and six digs, Dylan Oliva added 10 kills and Harryzen Soares amassed a match-high 24 digs and had two aces in the loss. Austin Sanchez also had a double-double with 34 assists and 12 digs, Johnson-Kuhao Hookano-Pelekai contributed 12 digs and six kills and Friedl added seven kills. 

Kamehameha will play Mililani for third place at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at the Neal S. Blaisdell Center Arena. 

Moanalua will make its first appearance in a state final since it was swept by Punahou in 2016. 

"Punahou, basically their whole starting lineup is my club teammates so I've seen them a lot throughout the past four years of high school, from my freshman year to senior year. I played with them all four years and I feel like I know them very well," said Kawaa, who noted the considerable home-court advantage his team had against the Warriors Friday. 

"It's amazing. The crowd helped us a lot, bringing our energy up when our energy was down, cheering for us even though we were losing. It was just amazing; the crowd was our biggest supporting cast today," he added.

Like his team did against Kamehameha, Cabanting expects Kawaa to lead the way in Saturday's championship match. 

"I think the same thing that was happening (Friday): If they can take care of one, the serve, and keep them out of system and then get Keanu going, I think it's going to be a good battle," Cabanting said. 

The Menes and Buffanblu have met in each of the last four state tournaments that took place. Cabanting's squad suffered a narrow, five-set loss in their previous meeting in the semifinal round of the 2019 state tournament. 

Punahou went on to win the tournament that spring for their eighth consecutive state crown. 

Reach Kalani Takase at [email protected].

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