LAHAINA - The Baldwin High School boys volleyball team didn't expect this kind of battle, but in the end it may pay off.
The Bears needed all they had to get past an inspired Maui High team on Tuesday night in the semifinals of the Maui Interscholastic League Division I tournament at the Lahaina Civic Center, 31-29, 25-18, 28-26.
Baldwin clinched a state tournament berth with the win, but finished the match with Tyler Arbogast sitting on the bench with an apparent sprained ankle suffered late in the third set.
Baldwin High School’s Tyler Arbogast (right) and Justyn Kuhaulua-Feiteira try to block Maui High’s Craig-Anthony Fuentes during the Bears’ 31-29, 25-18, 28-26 win over the Sabers in a Maui Interscholastic League tournament semifinal Tuesday at the Lahaina Civic Center.
The Maui News / MATTHEW?THAYER?photo
"Yeah, that was probably the toughest sweep we have ever had to play," Baldwin's Gabe Ross said after his team-high eight kills.
The Bears fell behind 9-3 and 17-12 in the first set and needed eight set points to finally nail it down after 31 minutes of play. The third set took another comeback after the Bears trailed 17-10 and 21-17 and faced a pair of Maui High set points before finishing things on the third match point.
"I think those tough matches are going to help us be ready for state because all those players and teams (at state) all play at that level, too," Ross said. "It was real important to clinch state, we wanted to get it out of the way. We didn't really want to look past them, but we didn't expect them to come out and play that well, so that was really good."
Isei Finau added seven kills, Jaryn Kuhaulua-Feiteira had five kills and three blocks, Arbogast had four kills and two blocks and Justyn Kuhaulua-Feiteira had 25 assists and two kills for the Bears (10-3), who advance to the MIL D-I tournament final on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. against King Kekaulike.
If Baldwin wins that one, a winner-take-all rematch for the overall MIL crown would be played Friday at a site to be determined. The Bears and Na Alii met in such a match last year, and Baldwin won in five sets.
"I missed the first game against them this year so I am really looking forward to playing them again," Ross said. "We have got a nice rivalry going with them, even from basketball."
Ross was named MIL D-I Boys Basketball Player of the Year earlier this month, and Baldwin and King Kekaulike were the league's D-I representatives in that sport as well.
"We bring out the best in each other," he said. "It is a lot of fun to have that competitiveness in two sports at the same time."
Ross said he plans to play basketball in college - Concordia in Oregon and McDaniel College in Maryland are possibilities, "and I'm working on getting a couple more on that list," he said.
Maui High's Siueli Vaha, who also played baseball and competed in track and field this spring, had 10 kills, six blocks and three aces. Camryn Wilhelm had three kills and two blocks, Kepa Freitas had eight kills and Lance Canosa dished out 16 assists. Vaha and Wilhlem were the only two returnees for the Sabers and two of the team's six seniors.
"That was a totally different team from the season," Baldwin coach Kalei Houpo said of Maui High (4-9). "We weren't expecting them to play that good, but I mean we knew they could, but we were hoping it would be the same team from the season. Different team, different season. They played hard - that will help us for state."
Maui High's effort moved coach Jessica Adkins to tears after the match.
"They gave everything they had," she said. "I told them I wouldn't be upset if they gave it their all and played with their hearts after every ball. I couldn't be prouder of them.
It was a tough game for all of them, Baldwin is very tough. They have had the years of experience.
"My team surprised me this year, two returnees and a brand-new group of boys. We are getting there slowly. Heart is what it is. They have a lot of it. I know they wanted it really, really bad and I wanted it for them, too."
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com