KEAAU — Christian Liberty’s best moment of its boys Big Island Interscholastic Federation volleyball season, so far, is a priceless one — earning a hard-fought victory over Honokaa in the home debut at the school’s Old Mill Field House.
The gym looks like a setting for the movie “Hoosiers.” But once inside, there’s a distinctive feel that it belongs to the Canefire, with the school colors of blue and orange decorating the walls and the Sport Court floor — the artificial tile found at Olympic venues.
And nothing was going to spoil Christian Liberty’s happy ending, especially with an energetic student body cheering the home team to rally on, despite staring at a 21-17 deficit in the fourth set.
The Canefire charged back in the fourth set and did it again in the fifth, putting away the Dragons 20-25, 25-23, 13-25, 25-23, 16-14 on Wednesday night, allowing the players to celebrate the thrill of the program’s most historic victory.
“It’s our first win in our gym, and it’s history. It’s so exciting,” said Christian Liberty senior middle Tim Jittu, who pounded 16 kills.
Keanu Bergfeld led the way with 20 kills, and Keenan Freitas added 15 for the Canefire (2-4 Division II), who have never been to the Hawaii High School Athletic Association state tournament in the program’s 15-year history.
There are banners in the field house pronouncing the boys and girls soccer teams’ appearance at states. It would be a nice touch if boys volleyball could get its own banner, especially with four starting seniors in Jittu, Bergfeld, Freitas and setter Ray Crawford.
“Soccer has been the hallmark of the school, and soccer has been pretty successful, making it to states,” Jittu said. “I think we just need to jell a little more. If we jell, we could bring home a banner. We just have to be confident. That’s how we won the fourth set and how we took the fifth set.”
In every set, the Canefire had more hitting errors and presented the Dragons more giveaway points. They had four in a row in the fourth set, falling into that 21-17 hole.
Then Christian Liberty cleaned up its passing, Freitas got a good set and blasted a kill, the first in a four-point run. Bergfeld had back-to-back kills to force the fifth set.
Freitas came to the rescue again when his team was trailing 8-6 in Game 5. The 6-foot outside hitter clobbered five straight kills to reverse the momentum and give Christian Liberty an 11-10 lead.
From there, it really got interesting. Down 14-10, Honokaa scored four straight, getting two kills from Shyrome Batin during that stretch and a triple block on Bergfeld to tie it 14-14.
After a timeout, Bergfeld had a chance against another triple block. He tipped the ball over Honokaa’s green wall, and it went down. Then Crawford made himself a nice memory, serving an ace on match point.
“It was a great game, and we really wanted to win because it’s our first game in our gym,” Freitas said. “Our fans really supported us. Honokaa was on fire, and in the first four games we really didn’t play as a team. In the fifth set, we played as a team.”
Batin, a sophomore opposite, drilled 17 kills, and Chance Salva, a junior outside hitter, added 14 kills for the Dragons (3-3).
“It’s a really big win for us,” Canefire coach Gary Oertel said. “I felt we didn’t play as well as we could have, but when we needed to, we played tough and made plays. We didn’t play well in the first and third sets. We got our confidence in the fourth, and that carried over into the fifth.
“I thought the atmosphere was great to have the students cheering us in the fifth set. That really helped us, and we got the win.”