OIA Boys Volleyball
No. 2 Moanalua pulls away from No. 7 Kaiser in straight sets


Mon, Mar 13, 2023 @ Moanalua [ 6:00 pm ]

FINAL  1   2   3   4   5      
KAIS (11-5) 19 13 14 - - 0
MOA (16-1) 25 25 25 - - 3

SALT LAKE — Kai Rodriguez led all attackers with 11 kills and three aces as No. 2 Moanalua shook off a slow start to sweep No. 7 Kaiser in an OIA East match Monday night.

Set scores were 25-19, 25-13 and 25-14.

Na Menehune improved to 3-0 atop the league standings with the victory while the Cougars dropped their first match of the regular season and fell to 2-1.

It was Moanalua's first contest in five days after sweeping Kalani on the road last Wednesday.

"It started off a little slow, but I think we just came off from two or three days of not playing anything then we got back into it — second and third set we really turned it around," said Rodriguez, a 6-foot-3 outside hitter who is one of three seniors on the squad that have signed on to play for the two-time defending national champion University of Hawaii Rainbow Warriors men's volleyball team.

Rodriguez was also feeling under the weather to start the match, sporting a face mask to start the contest before ditching it after the first set.

"I was in the sun all weekend. I think I got a little bit of a heat stroke so I had a fever, but then I started to feel a lot better in the second and third set," he said.

Zachary Yewchuk, another UH signee, was the next leading attacker with eight kills from the opposite position. Christian Tafao was also solid with seven kills and two aces while having a hand in Na Menehune's lone block of the contest.

Moanalua's Zachary Yewchuk puts down a kill from the middle over Kaiser's Kaili Fearon. Greg Yamamoto | SL    Purchase image

Draider "Malu" Wilcox and Aaron Matsumoto combined for 31 assists as Moanalua's two setters in its 6-2 rotation and libero Kaden Sato had a match-high 13 digs to stabilize the back row. Five other players also registered kills for Na Menehune as every player on the roster saw court time except for 6-foot-8 Justin Todd, the third future Rainbow Warrior.

"They're not predictable. All their players can move the ball," Kaiser coach Michael Smyrychynski said of Moanalua's squad. "They got high IQ out there, they can see the spots out there and they were effective."

To their credit, the Cougars hung with Na Menehune throughout the early stages of the match. With setter Gabriel Singelman (18 assists) and libero Gabe Stevens (eight digs), Kaiser was able to run its offense and feed its middle hitters for some quick kills.

Service errors proved to be the difference maker however as they came at times that halted momentum for the Cougars. Kaiser had 13 total errors from the line, with six coming in the opening stanza.

In set one, a serve into the net gave Moanalua a 21-17 lead. Singelman scored on a dump and on an ace off Sato's right arm to cut it to two points, but another service error jumpstarted a 4-0 run that Na Menehune used to close out the opening frame.

Although it wasn't the outcome that he wanted, Smyrychynski said the game plan was to be aggressive from the service line.

"I told the boys that we weren't going to compete if we were giving them lollipops, so I wanted them to be a little more aggressive. We just didn't come out (with our best) as far as the serving game.

"If our servers are doing what I know they can do, that first set would have been a lot of fun, maybe a different result because I think Moanalua started a little slow with some errors. You can't beat a team like that playing safe, you have to be aggressive and you just have to hope that (we're) on fire and ready to play."

Despite the second set being decided by the largest margin out of the three sets, the Cougars actually held a lead in the frame at one juncture after the two teams traded points.

An ace by Singelman tied the set at five after it rolled off the net. Rodriguez then scored on an underhanded attack thanks to a sliding save by Sato on the first touch to make it 6-5 in favor of the home team.

Kaiser setter Gabriel Singelman was at the controls with a match-high 18 assists. Greg Yamamoto | SL    Purchase image

The next point was initially ruled as a kill by Rodriguez, but the Cougars argued that a Moanalua attack during the play touched the outside antenna and was called by the line judge even though play went on. After a lengthy discussion with both officials and line judges, Kaiser was awarded the point to make the score 6-6.

A hitting error by Rodriguez on the next play gave Kaiser its first lead of the game, 7-6, but another service error into the net by the Cougars derailed their momentum. A strong attack by Rodriguez that hit the ceiling after a Kaiser player touched it regained the lead for Moanalua as the home team started to pull away from that point.

Logan Ho had a kill three points later to jump start a 5-0 run for Na Menehune, which prompted a Kaiser timeout when Moanalua was up 14-8. Rodriguez also had two aces during this stretch.

The senior outside hitter noted that he made an adjustment on his serves after Stevens, Kaiser's libero, did a good job in serve receive in the opening stanza.

"That was more about placement so I was starting to cut it a little more and put it in places a little better so they would be out of system and we would have an easier time," Rodriguez explained.

The third set was another decisive win for Moanalua as it got off to a 6-0 lead to start the frame.

Akira Davies and Kaili Fearon led the Cougars' attack in the loss with five kills apiece.

Reach Michael Lasquero at [email protected].

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