Baldwin Boys Clinch State Volleyball Berth With Win
By Rodney S. Yap
Defined as a work in progress at the start of the season, the Baldwin High School boys volleyball team enjoyed a breakout performance Friday, clinching the 2013 Maui Interscholastic League regular-season title and state Division I tournament berth.
The Bears rolled up Kamehameha Maui in four sets, 25-18, 25-10, 20-25, 25-20, to improve their record to 10-1 before a crowd of about 100 at Baldwin’s gymnasium. The Warriors fell to 7-4.
“It feels good,” said Baldwin head coach Kalei Houpo. “Talking with the boys last night, they feel really good about it. They know it’s not over yet and we still have work to do, but we’re continuing to get better — every practice, every game, everyday we are improving.”
Junior outside hitters Niko Corpin and Ryan Garces each had 12 kills for Baldwin. Senior Coren Yamauchi had eight aces and 15 digs playing libero for only the second time.
Meanwhile, setter Kyson Kaiama had 37 assists for the Bears.
Mana Aikala, Kahiau Andrade and R.J. Moku each had five kills for the Warriors. Kekoa Travis Uyechi and Ionatana Tua had 10 assists apiece.
Houpo guided Baldwin to the MIL title two years ago, behind a veteran roster that included the likes of Timmy Pang, Kealii Pacheco and Kona Sarmiento.
“We had guys who had a lot of experience, who were on the team for three and four years,” Houpo said. “This year’s team is pure athleticism. We have athletes who picked up the sport really fast. In fact a couple of our starters played JV last year.”
Houpo said the two biggest contributors to the team’s steady improvement are Corpin, who was on the JV squad in 2012 and is now a captain, and Yamauchi, who due to family issues did not play last season.
“Corpin, he’s a captain because of his verbal skills. He’s shown he can play and he leads by example. And Coren returned a much improved player. His success has made us a stronger team.”
Houpo said Yamauchi is arguably the most versatile player on the team.
“That was only his second game playing as a libero. He’s an all-around player and we can put him any where, outside hitter, backside hitter, middle blocker, he’s got the whole package and he’s really helping us a lot this year.”
Nevertheless, be it offense or defense, Baldwin’s bread and butter is its pair of 6-foot, 3-inch middle blockers — Trent Helle and Bradley Bowlin.
“Our offense starts from the middle out, through Kyson (Kaiama). Without the middle our outside hitters would be double- and triple-teamed all night.”
When Kamehameha Maui rallied to go up by as many as 10 points in the third set, which it eventually won 25-18, Houpo deferred to his twin powers in the middle.
“Our rock is our middle and without Bradley and Trent we would not be the same team,” Houpo said. “Kamehameha comeback and kicked our butts in that set. And sometimes you need a butt-kicking, too.”
Following the third-set loss, Houpo told his team: “Now what are you going to do to prevent them from getting into third gear.”
“We know that the other teams are getting better just like us, but we have to be a step in front of everybody, so that’s what we stress at practice and that’s what we try and stress before games.”
With the MIL Tournament coming up in two weeks, Houpo said the team needs to stay focused and build on its success.
“This team needed a confidence booster. A lot of weight has been lifted off our shoulders. Going into the season we weren’t really thinking about states, we were thinking about getting better and seeing how we were going to progress.
“Knowing they are going to states doesn’t mean we can relax. We have to keep doing what we’re doing and continue to get better.”
In boys Division II volleyball:
Hana swept Lanai at Lanai City, 25-22, 25-19, 25-16.
Seabury Hall defeated Molokai at Hoolehua, 21-25, 24-26, 25-22, 25-16, 15-6.