A few kills weren’t going to change anyone’s perceptions about his team. Twenty-three? That’ll do.
Each thunderous shot by Richard Harpole was angrier than the last as the Moanalua senior hitter buried Leilehua in a 25-21, 25-23, 13-25, 25-14 Na Menehune victory for the Oahu Interscholastic Association Red championship last night at McKinley’s Student Council Gym.
Harpole got himself lathered up with perceived disrespect that Moanalua, which moved up to the Red this season, didn’t belong despite OIA White championships the past two years.
"We came here to win and show everybody that we can compete at this level," Harpole said. "We’re not just a little team that wins by chance. … Tonight was our stage and our proving match, to show everyone that we can do it."
With the win, Na Menehune earned the OIA’s seeded berth at next week’s state tournament on the Big Island.
The teams hadn’t encountered each other all season, including in preseason tournament matches. Once they finally met, the top OIA Red East team proved too much for the best of the OIA West, despite some bouts of suspect passing. A sound Moanalua service game helped offset it.
Joshua Buted added eight kills and setters Zarin Augustiro and Brandon Guerrero combined for 37 assists for Na Menehune. Libero Kolby Kanetake had five of the team’s 12 aces.
Yet the show was unquestionably Harpole’s. He dropped a hammer on the Mules whenever his team needed a desperate point — or even when they didn’t.
"When we were down in the White, we were looking forward to coming back," Moanalua coach Doug Hee said. "We just fought really hard. A lot of these guys came up from the White. They wanted to prove something that they could really play, so credit is to these guys, this one especially. He nodded at Harpole, "How he played and carried us a long way."
Unbeaten Na Menehune (16-0) aren’t content simply with their first OIA Red championship. The No. 6 team in the Star-Advertiser Top 10 believes it can hang with the best of the Interscholastic League of Honolulu next week at the state tournament.
"We want Punahou, we want Kamehameha, we want ‘Iolani, we want that level of competition," said Harpole, who is going to play at Hope International in California. "It’s what we crave."
Leilehua, which was upset by Pearl City in the first round of double-elimination play, fought through several elimination matches in the loser’s bracket to get to the championship game.
After going down two games to none, it would have been easy to fold it up. But the Mules had a final push left in them, outplaying Na Mehehune in a big way in the third game and denying Moanalua an easy sweep.
It also seemed to anger the soon-to-be champions, and they came out with a vengeance in the deciding game. Harpole ramped it up another notch and Na Menehune bench got involved to finish off the Mules in four.
"I think we did well, just gotta be more consistent," Leilehua coach Ernest Balignasay said. "Especially when we’re down, we gotta come back up. We showed that, coming back up through the consolation bracket. Maybe it asked a lot of us. But we did our best."
Brock Paikai led the Mules with 13 kills.
OIA White championship
Castle def. Kahuku 27-25, 25-19, 25-17
After a tight first game, the Black Knights rolled through the Red Raiders convincingly for their first OIA boys volleyball title since 1988.
"We were able to work on our plays with having a very strong defense against them," Castle coach Pat Gomes-Woolsey said. ‘Hopefully (in states) we can pick up the pace and play more of our game."
Castle (15-0), ranked No. 10 in the Star-Advertiser Top 10, and Kahuku will be the OIA’s two representatives at the Division II state tournament next week.