HONOKAA — Pahoa was under a barrage of kills from Honokaa’s hitters and in a two-set hole when it heeded its coach’s advice.
Once the Daggers’ blockers took away angles, they suddenly had an edge.
Pahoa rode its new-found wave of momentum to a stunning 18-25, 16-25, 25-12, 26-24, 20-18 comeback victory Saturday at Honokaa Armory.
The Big Island Interscholastic Federation volleyball match was lopsided through the opening two sets, got a little more interesting in the third, and then the contest morphed into a back-and-forth thriller to tighten the playoff race in Division II.
“Second set, I thought it was over, a loss,” said Virgil Stinnett, who led the Daggers with 17 kills. “Third set, we came on strong and finished.
“We communicated and pushed through.”
Pahoa (4-5) was on the ropes and down 10-1 in Game 4, but it stormed back to score 16 of the final 20 points in the set, saving five match points. As Honokaa started to commit hitting errors, Stinnett, Travis Carvalho and Torrell Thomas began picking up steam.
“Suddenly, the fire came out,” Daggers coach Sheri Kaehuaea-Credo said. “We knew they had it.”
The Dragons (5-4) denied Pahoa three match points in Game 5, but Travis Carvalho broke the eighth tie of the set with a kill and Stinnett ended the match with an ace.
“Physically, our boys, I would think are the strongest in Division II,” Honokaa coach Shelton Kalilikane said. “Mentally, we’re kind of struggling.”
The names change, but the Daggers continue to be a thorn in Honokaa’s side. Pahoa beat the Dragons in the BIIF playoffs each of the past three years, and it spoiled Senior Day on Saturday to drop Honokaa into a first-place tie with Ka‘u in Division II.
“I can’t explain it,” Stinnett said.
Kaehuaea-Credo tried, at least as to how the Daggers changed their blocking scheme after Honokaa hitters Chance Salva, CJay Carvalho and Shyrome Batin had their way the first two sets.
“The boys finally listened to us,” she said. “A lot of teams hit the angle. We know our diggers can dig. We have faith in our diggers. They finally had faith in each other and trusted each other to keep working.”
Kalilikane gave Pahoa credit for its adjustment, but he said, “If we could have passed better, we could have utilized other players.”
Salva and Carvalho each finished with double-digit kills for Honokaa, which is searching for its first BIIF title in boys volleyball. The Dragons haven’t been to the Hawaii High School Athletic Association tournament since Kalilikane was a senior in 2008, but they still have a chance to lock up a spot as the outright regular-season champion this week heading into the four-team playoffs.
On Tuesday, Ka‘u visits Waiakea and the Dragons go to Kealakehe; the Dragons and Trojans hook up Saturday in Pahala to end the regular season. The Trojans persevered in a classic match of their own Saturday, edging Kohala 25-21, 25-18, 22-25, 27-29, 16-14 in Kapaau.
The Cowboys (3-6) fell to fifth in D-II. Pahoa hosts Kohala on Saturday. Hawaii Preparatory Academy (4-4) still has three matches remaining this week.