Set for action? Volleyball tips off Wednesday

There exists a space between God-given talent and championships where an

athlete develops, where he or she hones physical skill.

For that talent to

become titles, however, the mind must play a factor. A player must have a

desire to win to call on, a taste of success.

Kaua’i has nine of

them.

Which puts the Red Raiders in the driver’s seat for a boys’ KIF

volleyball crown this year. Kaua’i won the KIF last year, but was bounced from

the state championship in just two matches.

“We are physically prepared,”

Kaua’i coach Shawn Doo said. “”The next level is to get our heads involved.

We’ve got nine guys who know what it takes to get it done.”

Of course,

Kapa’a, second in the KIF last season, and Waimea have guys looking to stand in

the Red Raiders’ way.

The Warriors sport a rather tall lineup, while the

Menehunes will bring discipline and defensive quickness to the table.

“We

know this league is going to be competitive,” Doo said. “Each night is going to

be a real battle.

“Whoever makes it out of the KIF will have earned it, and

should perform well at the state level.”

KAUA’I

All things being equal,

depth may be the thing that sets the Red Raiders (8-0 in 1999) apart in

2000.

“It is a blessing to have such depth,” Doo said. “We had an

intra-squad scrimmage and there was really no way to tell the first-team player

from the second.

“I wouldn’t hesitate to play any of these guys.”

But

on any team, there are starters. And the key to Kaua’i’s success lies with

starting-setter Matthew Miguel. The junior has been setting for two years at

the varsity level.

“Matt really understands the game,” Doo said. “He knows

how to mix up the signal-calling and manage the team.”

Finishing many of

Miguel’s sets will be outside hitter Mark Rodrigues. The senior’s powerful left

arm may be the most imposing weapon on the island.

“Blockers are used to

seeing right-handers,” Doo said. “So being a lefty is a definite advantage for

Mark.”

But the Red Raiders will not be singleminded in their attack. Senior

Matthew Fukikawa will provide additional power at the outside-hitting position.

Kaua’i also should benefit from the presence of the player the team selected as

last year’s most improved, Mauricio Fabro.

“He is a very emotional player

who really rises to the occasion,” Doo said. “He always seems to play big at

game time.”

The key to Kaua’i’s attack, however, may be the less heralded

middle hitters, Jason Kashiwabara and David Medeiros. Acting much like the

offensive line on a football field, the pair rarely gets the shine of the

spotlight, but provides much.

Kapa’a

The Warriors posted the island’s

highest finish at the Waimea Invitational one month ago. Kapa’a finished second

in a field of nine teams.

Since then, however, a bit of bad luck has

befallen the Warriors. Starters Austin Alapai and Stephen Adams suffered

injuries, and Alapai stands to miss no fewer than three weeks of

action.

“We got a touch of the injury bug,” head coach Manny Henriques

said. “But we’ve got 12 guys out here all capable of playing at the varsity

level, so we’re just going to plug in.”

And try and improve on their

second-place KIF finish last season. The Warriors went 3-5 in 1999.

“I

think we’re going to be very competitive this year,” Henriques said. “Want to

improve each time out.”

Though Henriques said that his players are bit

slower to develop than those on the Westside of the island, the coach does

boast some talent in the junior class. Three of his projected starters, Ben

Kuhaulua, Keoni Nakano and Garrett Danner, are eleventh-graders.

The other

three starters, Chris Lary, Royce Ropozo and Kekoa Chun, are senior

captains.

Chun, standing 6-foot-6, and substitute Rhyan Greenleaf were

cited by Henriques as players to watch.

“We’re looking for good things from

all our seniors,” Henriques said. “We tell them that this is their last year to

make a difference, their last go at it.”

WAIMEA

Though the Menehunes’

season kicks off tonight at Kapa’a, as of late last week, Waimea coach Bobby

Kamakele was unsure of what his starting lineup would look like.

“We’ve got

a lot of versatility,” the coach said. “With guys who can play a lot of

positions, we want to put the best combination on the floor.”

Rest assured,

Kamakele will find the right concoction. He’s been putting volleyball teams on

the floor at Waimea for 13 years. Last season his team posted a 1-7 record,

something Kamakele is looking to better in 2000.

“The year before last we

were 0-8,” the coach said. “So we are steadily improving.”

The coach said

his seniors, Shane Castillo, Keola Karratti, Wesley Manual and Elia Ta’ala have

been through “plenty of ups and downs” during their careers. Those four, plus

junior Ray Blouin, comprise the Menehunes’ returnees.

Regardless of the

combination of players Kamakele decides on, count on Karratti to be the team’s

leader.

The outside hitter is the latest in a long line of good volleyball

blood — two siblings played for the University of Hawa’i, and dad for Church

College (before it became BYU-Hawai’i — and will be counted on for consistent

spark.

“He’s very athletic,” Kamakele said. “We tell him that he will be

counted on to lead the team. Maybe it’s too much pressure, but that’s what he’s

up against.”

Relieving some of that pressure will be junior Jerrick Fabro,

an outside hitter. Kamakele said junior James Marques also should be expected

to provide solid play.

“Ray (Blouin) might prove to be a nice sleeper,”

Kamakele said. “He shows up for games. We just need him to practice hard,

too.”

Though admitting Kaua’i looks tough to beat, Kamakele hopes his team

“will work quietly and get the job done.”

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