Whether it was Honokaa’s mental toughness he was admiring or its good decision-making at the net or its ability to use the middle block, coach Shelton Kalilikane used the same word in each instance: finally.
That leaves the Dragons with one last hurdle to climb.
Chance Salva ripped 13 kills Friday and the Dragons coasted past Kohala 25-13, 25-10, 25-16 at Kealakehe High to move to the cusp of their first Big Island Interscholastic Federation Division II boys volleyball title.
“That was our goal from Day 1 of tryouts,” Kalilikane said.
But the Dragons (8-4) aren’t alone.
Ka‘u (6-6), which swept Hawaii Preparatory Academy 25-16, 25-17, 25-23 with similar ease in its semifinal, also will be seeking its first crown in today’s 5 p.m. final, and coach Joshua Ortega once again can be the renaissance man. In 2012, Ortega led the Ka‘u girls volleyball team to the school’s first BIIF title in any sport.
“Our goal was to get the banner,” Ortega said. “A lot of our boys are very close with our girls teams, so it’s nice to try for it.”
With the victory, Ka‘u joins Honokaa at the Hawaii High School Athletic Association tournament.
The Dragons return to their first BIIF final since Kalilikane was a junior in 2007, riding their crispest performance of the season.
“Perfect, everything we’ve been working on all season finally came through,” he said. “It all starts with a pass, and we’re putting the ball away in smart places.”
Cjay Carvalho complemented Salva at outside hitter with seven kills, and Elzer Maltezo added 11 digs. Carvalho and Salva posted six digs apiece. Each is a senior, as is Wayne Vaoga (four kills), middle blocker Cody Lindsey (three kills, three blocks) and setter Makana Loo.
“There is always room for improvements, but everything is working good right now,” Loo said. “We like hanging out and having fun together.”
While Honokaa was in prime form, it faced little resistance from the Cowboys (5-8), who didn’t seem to have much left in the tank after twice saving their season with wins against Pahoa to reach the semifinals.
On Monday, Kohala swept Pahoa in a play-in game, and coach Rodney Goya said his team played like “a high seven out of 10.” Four days later, he graded the Cowboys out to a three.
Senior Pono Giron-Arellano and junior Hana Caravalho led Kohala with six kills each.
“It was a completely different team today,” Goya said. “I don’t know what happened. I don’t know if it was jitters. The overall chemistry, we didn’t have it.”
Salva and Honokaa took advantage, feeding off a strong synergy connecting the Dragons passers, setter Loo and a host of outside hitters.
“We just all worked together,” Salva said. “Mentally, as long as we stick together, we can fight off everything.”
Last Saturday in Pahala, Honokaa fought off Ka‘u in five sets, taking the decisive game 15-10.
“We need to make sure we get tough serves and play up-tempo,” Ortega said. “Honokaa is a very good defensive team and is always pumped up.”