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The Maui News 2019 MIL Boys Volleyball All-Stars

James, Kaneaiakala honored

Makoa Kaneaiakala helped lead Molokai High School to a runner-up finish in the Maui Interscholastic League Division II. LEE DEROUIN photo

While they don’t know each other well, Ethan James and Makoa Kaneaiakala have several things in common on the volleyball court.

Both emerged during the Maui Interscholastic League season to make impressions that they hope will fuel winning runs next year.

Kaneaiakala is a 6-foot-4 sophomore outside hitter for Molokai High School who transferred from Maryknoll, while James became the biggest weapon for Kamehameha Maui as a 5-10 junior outside hitter.

Both were the choices of the league’s coaches as The Maui News MIL Players of the Year, James for Division I and Kaneaiakala for Division II.

James was best when the Warriors needed him the most. They lost four starters down the stretch for reasons varying from violation of team rules to a dancing commitment at the Merrie Monarch Festival.

Ethan James and Kamehameha Maui won their third straight MIL Division I title. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

“It feels great, I mean I couldn’t have done it without the team,” James said of the POY nod. “It’s kind of a little overwhelming, I guess, as a junior.”

James picked up a large portion of the slack when the roster shrunk to seven players available, combining with fellow first-team All-Star selection Kale Spencer, a freshman setter.

The Warriors had to scramble to fill needs down the stretch, but it was James who had a match-high 16 kills in a win over Maui High in the MIL tournament semifinals and then piled up 18 kills and eight digs in a sweep of Lahainaluna in the tournament final that wrapped up a third straight MIL crown with a 14-0 record.

“I had to play several different positions,” James said. “I had to play the middle a couple times and I had to really try to adjust the best I could to make sure I could fill that spot and also kind of play my own spot at the same time. I think as a team we adjusted really well and figured out how to make it work.”

James and Spencer are joined on the MIL D-I first team by Elijah Oliveira-Kalalau and Tekoa Sonognini of Lahainaluna; Julius Benavidez and Trent Takara of Maui High; and Kai Carbajal of King Kekaulike.

The MIL coaches of the year are Robert Brede of Kamehameha Maui for Division I and Josh Kulhavy-Sutherland of Seabury Hall for Division II.

Kaneaiakala joined the young Farmers to play for a school where he has plenty of family ties. Molokai was eliminated by Seabury Hall in the MIL tournament final after both teams swept two regular-season head-to-head matches on their home floors.

Molokai did not have a single senior and just three juniors on the roster. Kaneaiakala and Iverson Dudoit, a junior transfer from Kamehameha Maui who was a first-team MIL D-I All-Star last season, were key additions.

“We started off, like, we didn’t really connect with each other,” Kaneaiakala said. “It was different after weeks went by, I was just looking at it as we had to play as a team, play together.”

Kaneaiakala was a team captain and took it on his shoulders to help the team gel.

“I just felt like I needed to step up as a captain and, not carry the team, but bring our team together to play as one instead of everybody being individuals,” Kaneaiakala said. “Learning with the rest of the team, as a young team, was amazing. We started off really nothing as a team, but at the end — even though we lost in the MILs — we still came together as a family.”

Kaneaiakala is joined on the MIL D-II first team by Dudoit; Seabury Hall’s Kalai Anderson, Zak Burkett and Noah Garcia; and Hana’s Nahinu Lind and Keoki Hoopai-Waikoloa.

Kaneaiakala said his decision to move to the Friendly Isle was the right one for his sophomore season, but it is still undetermined if he will finish there. Doctors have told him that he could reach 6-8 in height.

“As I went home (to Molokai), I felt right because I was with my family because I knew everybody there,” Kaneaiakala said. “And it was so great playing in front of my hometown.”

Like the Farmers, the Spartans are young, too. They say goodbye to just two seniors, Garcia and C.J. Ozee.

“I know it’s going to be very scrappy, like, as I saw this last year,” Kaneaiakala said. “You could just feel the tension on the court between both of us. Seabury is such a great team and playing against them was really intense. It was just fun playing against an amazing team like them. … I know for the next few years, it’s going to be a battle.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com.

Division I Second Team

Jacob Wittenberg, King Kekaulike, Setter, So. 6-2

Dominic Aflague-Mesta, King Kekaulike, Outside hitter, Jr. 5-8

Darius Lauture, King Kekaulike, Middle blocker, Sr. 6-5

Jonah Damasco, Lahainaluna, Opposite hitter, Sr. 5-8

Hoi Krause, Lahainaluna, Outside hitter, Sr. 5-10

Brennen Mendez, KS Maui, Libero, Jr. 5-7

Sheldon Dudoit-Caban, KS Maui, Middle blocker, So. 5-11

Division II Second Team

Tyler Russell, Seabury Hall, Opposite hitter, 5-11 Fr.

Jaydon Kaupu, Molokai, Outside hitter, 5-8 Fr.

Thomas Russell, Seabury Hall, Libero, 5-10 Fr.

Kanalu Kahale, Molokai, Setter, 5-9 So.

Carter Phillips, Seabury Hall, Middle blocker, 6-3 So.

Kaua Medeiros, Hana, Outside hitter, 6-0 Jr.

Shayden Hoopai-Waikoloa, Hana, Setter, 5-4 So.

Honorable Mention

DIVISION I–Baldwin: Jesther Tugas, Kui Ross; Kamehameha Maui: Hao Awai, Jaden Tanaka, Kalea Kalahiki; King Kekaulike: Bryson Uchima, Rayson Rivera; Lahainaluna: M.J. Domingo, Keahi Shim; Maui High: Jonah Garaganza.

DIVISION II–Hana: Kayden Kaauamo; Lanai: Jose Baltero; Molokai: Kaya Alcon, Vaai Seumalo, Nickolas Rapanot; Seabury Hall: C.J. Ozee.