The journey of avenging its losses this season continues with a vengeance for the Moanalua boys volleyball team.
In its march through the losers bracket of the Oahu Interscholastic Association Red tournament, Na Menehune (14-4) have gone 3-for-3 against teams it lost to previously.
First McKinley. Then Kalaheo. And Thursday night, Kaiser, the team that sent Moanalua to the losers bracket April 23.
Austin Matautia put down 10 kills and Tahi Caldwell added nine kills and all three of his aces in an 8-0 run to end Set 3 as Moanalua swept Kaiser 25-21, 25-23, 25-16 at McKinley High’s Student Council Gym.
It was the first loss for the Cougars (13-1) in the double-elimination tournament. It sets up a winner-take-all match at 10 a.m. Saturday at Radford High’s Jim Alegre gym, the victor taking the OIA’s top seed into next week’s state tournament.
“I definitely think we have the momentum, the kids are playing better and better every night,” Moanalua coach Alan Cabanting said. “We were solid with our serving and our passing, and our block was disciplined.
“Austin (Matautia) and Tahi (Caldwell) came through and Zarin (setter Augustiro) ran our offense. I think we are in a better position and are confident (about Saturday).”
There is a difference in postseason experience. Kaiser has never won an OIA title, while Moanalua won back-to-back White championships in 2009 and ’10, followed by the past two Red titles after moving up a division.
That confidence showed when Caldwell went back to serve in Set 3 with Na Menehune up 17-16.
“The coaches told me to let it rip,” Caldwell, a senior hitter, said. “I think we’ve come together at the right time and are there for each other.
“We have another tough match ahead, playing Kaiser again. We have to come out and be just as physical as they are.”
The Cougars have relied on their block and their height advantage in the middle all season. Thursday night, Kaiser had problems running its middle attack, in part due to Moanalua’s serving.
“It’s pretty simple, they outplayed us,” Cougars coach Jon Stanley said. “We know we can play better and that’s what we want to do Saturday, come out and play better.”
The Cougars got 10 kills and three blocks from Casey Bolda and five kills from Christian Sele. In the match with Na Menehune two weeks ago, Bolda finished with 23 kills and Christian Sele 11 in a four-set win.
Both liberos played extremely well Thursday, Austin Amian with 11 digs for Moanalua and Mason Ohta eight digs for Kaiser.
The difference may have been the play of sophomore middle Karson Cruz, who is still learning the sport, according to Cabanting. Cruz had six kills and was in on two blocks.
The match was evenly played until the ends of each set, when Moanalua seemingly found another gear.
Set 1 was tied at 20 when Na Menehune when Matautia led a 5-1 closing run wi th two kills.
It was 23-23 in Set 2. Moanalua used a Kaiser hitting error and a block by Matautia on Sele to take a
Na Menehune completed the sweep behind Caldwell’s lengthy stay behind the baseline.
His three aces, combined with a couple of Cougars hitting errors and another block by Matautia was enough to keep Moanalua’s hopes of a third straight OIA title alive.