Moanalua repeats as OIA boys volleyball champions

Trojans stuck in the bronze age as Nā Menehune take gold for the second year in a row


Caylen Maria Corpuz

The Moanalua boys varsity volleyball team celebrates after sweeping Mililani High School in the OIA Division I championships April 26 at Radford High School’s Jim Alegre Gymnasium. The team recorded 37 kills and 40 assists in the three-set victory.

Christopher Dias, Staff Writer

It was the best of the West vs. the best of the East for the OIA Division I crown last night. Same teams. Same results.

The Mililani Trojans and the Moanalua Nā Menehune both entered the arena undefeated in the regular season.  The end of the match gave new meaning to “Big Blue” at the OIA championships. The Trojans were seeking their fifth title and first since 2017, while Nā Menehune was ready to defend their crown from 2022. 

Leading Nā Menehune was senior outside hitter Kai Rodriguez with 17 kills and seven aces as Moananlua swept the Trojans 25-11, 25-22, 25-21. Trailing but not far behind in the stats was senior outside hitter Justin Todd, who registered 13 kills and two aces to his name. 

The victory is the 13th OIA title for the Menehunes while the Trojans (12-1) fought for their 5th. 

The first serve at Radford’s Jim Alegre Gymnasium was delayed for 30 minutes because of the Division II championship, in which Radford High School swept Aiea High School 3-0. The first set of the Division I title game, however, went off to an expected Moanalua start, quickly gaining a 4-1 lead. 

Moanalua was up 24-11 in the first set when Rodriguez sealed it by hitting an emphatic ace. The evening marked the one-year anniversary of Moanalua sweeping the Trojans in straight sets at Radford to win their first OIA crown in four years since 2018.

The second set proved to be heart-attack-inducing for both Menehune players and fans alike. The Trojans defied odds by going up on Moanalua by five points even without outside hitter Evan Foki (knee injury), who led the team in kills against Kaiser in their quarterfinal game.  Manase Fetulimoeata, the team’s star, played to half potential because of an earlier match (against Roosevelt), in which he suffered a knee injury.  

Even though most of the Trojans averaged around 5´8″ with the tallest being 6’0”, their front row managed to record 11 blocks, including two solo blocks against Moanalua’s outside hitters.

Managing to catch up from that five-point deficit, Nā Menehune clawed back thanks to Rodriguez’s tough serves. He and Keola DeMello then claimed the second set with a two-man block that led to a Mililani hitting error.

The Menes powered through the third set quickly. Mililani scored many of its points on Moanalua errors. The crowd began the “viking clap” when the score was 24-19. A Rodriguez service error led to a short Mililani two-point surge. DeMello then put the exclamation point on the game with a dramatic kill to end the match and start the celebration.

The victory over long-time rival Mililani did not faze Rodriguez or the other two out-of-state transfers, Todd and Zachary Yewchuck. 

“I think it’s a little bit easier [on the three of us] of not having the pressure of last year, where the [team felt it] needed to win [last year’s OIA championship]. We’re kind of new [to the state] so . . . we take it one game at a time. We don’t know the rivalries as how some of the other guys do.“

Junior Jaycen Bush, who immediately got the attention from both fan sections, put on a performance of a lifetime. Though standing at  5’8”, Bush managed to shock the crowds with his ability to match the vertical leap of some of his taller teammates through all his hitting attempts.

Sophomore setter Malu Wilcox said the team’s goal was to “not separate from each other” as much. 

“We didn’t want to be solo blocking [against Mililani],” he said about the team’s strategy. 

In the weeks leading up towards the state tournament, Head Coach Alan Cabanting believes that the game plan is all based on the basics. 

“I think that if we keep serving the way we did in the first set, we’d do really well, as it has to be on for the whole night, let alone two straight days in the tournament,” he said.

Pitching in six kills alongside three blocking assists, Bush, a future returnee, has high hopes that this momentum the team has built these last two seasons will carry on.

“I think next year we can still do really great, we’re losing a lot of teammates which is unfortunate, but we still have a lot of returning players, and if we click as a team, then that chemistry with us will always be here” he said.

The state tournament runs from May 11-13 and will be played at McKinley and Moanalua high schools with the championships being a BYU-Hawaii.