Moanalua’s quest for the OIA Championship trifecta continues after a 25-22, 25-20 win over top-seeded Kalaheo in the semifinals at McKinley gym on Tuesday.
"We never really did lose to them, so we had to keep up the tradition," Moanalua setter Zarin Austiro said, referencing last year’s OIA title match, in which Na Menehune swept the Mustangs in similar fashion.
With one loss in the postseason, Moanalua (13-4) needed a win to reach the title match.
"We knew Kalaheo was going to come strong on the middle, so we focused more on them and our passing, which leads to everything," Austiro said. "Without a pass, you can’t set, you can’t hit."
The 5-foot-8 Austiro finished with 22 assists and four momentum-changing kills in the win, and fellow senior Tahiarri Caldwell added a match-high 11 kills.
No. 6 Kalaheo (13-2) started the match with a 9-5 lead, with senior Josh Ko behind the service line. Ko and Anthony Rowan teamed up for a block to lead 14-10, but a service error handed Moanalua the momentum.
Na Menehune launched a 12-4 run, starting with a block by Karson Cruz and two Kalaheo errors. Another Mustangs block brought the match within two points at 22-20, but Na Menehune held on for the win, on freshman Austin Matautia’s first kill of the game.
"We had them in the first set," Kalaheo coach Ed Chun said. "We had good momentum, and to go back and miss a crucial serve after a big block, that’s gonna cost you. It could be a knife in your side right away."
The Mustangs finished third in the tournament and already earned a berth in the HHSAA state tournament.
The Mustangs bounced back with another early lead in set two. Kalaheo led 9-5 but faltered against the serving of Austiro, who recorded three consecutive aces.
Moanalua pulled ahead 13-10 with another six-point run, and extended the lead to 19-14 with a kill by Cruz in the middle.
Matautia hammered back-to-back kills from the left-side to end the match, with his fifth spike ricocheting off a Mustangs defender. Kalaheo’s Rowan finished with a team-high five kills in the loss.
"They played as a team, everyone contributing on every single point," Moanalua coach Alan Cabanting said. "They played with fire today, not allowing any balls to drop on the floor. Our two seniors, Zarin and Tahi, stepped up in that leadership role and they figured out a way to get us the win tonight."
With the win, fourth-seeded Moanalua will look for redemption against Kaiser in the OIA Red Championship match on Thursday. Na Menehune fell to the Cougars in four sets last week.
"We just gotta come out firing like today, keep the same energy," Austiro said. "It doesn’t matter who we play, we just gotta execute on our own plays."
If Moanalua wins, the two teams will play on Saturday in the decisive match for the OIA title.
Waialua 2, Campbell 1
Waialua kept its season alive with a 22-25, 25-21, 15-12 win over Campbell in the OIA White Division semifinals on Tuesday at McKinley gym.
The upset gives the Bulldogs (7-7) a shot at the OIA White title and a guaranteed spot in the HHSAA Division II state tournament. Campbell ends its season with a record of 7-7.
The Bulldogs narrowly dropped the first set, but led in the second set 22-19. The Sabers rallied within one point at 22-21, but a kill by Tyren-Jon Moniz and two Campbell errors pushed the match into a third and deciding set.
Waialua’s Moniz and Joshua Mendoza finished with seven kills.