Waialua pulls off reverse sweep to win first OIA D-II crown

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The first time might just be the sweetest.

Waialua rallied for a 21-25, 21-25, 25-16, 25-22, 15-10 reverse-sweep win over Kailua in an instant classic to capture the OIA boys Division II volleyball title before a packed house at Radford's James Alegre Gymnasium. The OIA began playing volleyball in 1970. Fifty-four years later, Waialua will hang a championship banner.

Keone Nahoopii, Jaris Ablao and Dayton Quick drilled 12 kills apiece, and Shane Kelly tallied 11 kills to power the Bulldogs' balanced attack. Setter Cyres Lacar was impeccable with 43 assists and three kills. Quick was especially effective with six blocks and a key role in a barrage of momentum-changing rallies and scores for Waialua (9-3).

"I think in the beginning of the season after we lost our first two games, we decided to buckle down. We started a new lineup, being each other's friends, hanging out, getting to know each other more, we locked in," Quick said. "No one expects Waialua to win. Even though we were down 2-0, we're still here and in the game. It all worked in our favor."

A massive showing by Waialua and Kailua fans created an electric atmosphere.

"I feel good. I'm very surprised. I'm very blessed, though," Waialua coach Jerry Keola said. "You know what I mean? I'll tell you right now, prayers work. Our heavenly father is the one who's always there for me, 100 percent. He's seen me through Leilehua and, now, Waialua. Without the man above, I couldn't have done anything."

Kelly's machine-gun rapid-fire style was stymied often by Kailua's persistent block. Coach Keola made some key adjustments.

"We changed our lineup. My big boy (Nahoopii) who was hitting outside moved to the oppo side. We knew they could contend with him on the outside, and we brought our little guy (Ablao) hoping they would mistake him for our outside hitter. That boy can jump," Keola said. "Kailua brought out the best in us taking us two games straight. Hats off to them big time. When we took that third set, we just had to take one more and we knew it was ours."

Waialua was 7-3 against D-I and D-II competition in the OIA West, then swept Kapolei to reach the final.

Kaleb Cui led Kailua (7-6) with 19 kills and one ace. Setter Jesse Tuipulotu-Davidson was stellar with 43 assists, seven kills and two aces, while middle Saunders Kalama had six kills and five blocks. Matthew Mashiba and Alakai Sulusi also chipped in six kills each.

The Surfriders reached the final by outlasting Waianae 25-19, 20-25, 18-25, 25-20, 15-12 in the semifinals.

Waialua swept Kapolei 25-13, 25-17, 25-21 in the semifinals. The Bulldogs' only regular-season losses were to Campbell, Mililani and Aiea.

The bulk of Waialua's roster were avid participants in the middle-school volleyball league hosted at the high school. Keola and his staff still have the league running on Saturdays. The reward for all those hours with first-time players is a first-ever volleyball crown for the Bulldogs.

"Nothing ceases to amaze me with this group," Waialua athletic director Darnell Arceneaux said. "They're a bunch of great young men that have been working hard all year. They faced some adversity early in the year and they keep persevering. It says a lot about this coaching staff. They do a great job of motivating these kids and keeping them on a straight path. Probably all of our seniors played in the middle-school league. They do it the right way and I'm so proud of them."

Keola has made the most of his available resources.

"When I started the program for them, we tried to build the program (for the middle schoolers) to build their confidence," he said. "I put in the hours. I love the game. I'm there for the kids no matter what, even if it's just one kid, I'll work him out."

The New City Nissan/HHSAA Boys Volleyball State Championships will begin Division II bracket play on May 9 at regional sites (Damien and Kalani).