If you are faint of heart, pass this season by.
The 2002 Kauai Interscholastic Federation high school volleyball season kicks off on Wednesday, September 25th, as the Kauai Red Raiders travel to the west-side to take on the Waimea Menehunes at the Clem Gomes Gymnasium.
If you are one of those fans that covers your eyes to the intense glare of a pressure-packed moment, this again is not for you. But if you like your action HOT and have never experienced the raucous thrills of a KIF match before, this is the year you will eagerly purchase a $3 game ticket and catch all the excitement our prep student athletes have to offer. Parity has arrived across island nets and players as well as fans stand to benefit from the intense competition.
Last year’s Red Raider girls and Menehune boys squads parlayed hard-fought league titles into strong showings at their respective state championships on Oahu as both emerged from pool play but were ultimately eliminated by Big Island entrants in three-set quarterfinal action.
HHSAA rules changes over the summer have since prompted a format change at the state tournament level with the decision to do away with pool play and adopt a straight 12-team double elimination format with the top 4 seeds drawing initial byes. As in similar state tourney formats, an opening game loss would immediately drop a squad into consolation match play.
Preseason play shows that competition will be extremely tight this year for island court supremacy with each team capable of pulling out a victory on any given night.
GIRLS: Joan and Kaipo Kealalio Sr. return for their fourth year and are assisted by son Kaipo Jr. and Cherie Paleka.
Kapa’a participated in both the Girls Volleyball High School Challenge at Kauai High and took second place in the silver division of the Longhy Oh Preseason Invitational on Oahu in preparation for upcoming KIF competition.
Key returnees: Kelly McBride (MH, Sr.), Ihilani Yama (S/OH, Sr.), Sharlene Carillo (OH, Sr.), Uluwehi Torio (MH, Sr.), and Tescily Maguire (OH/S, Sr.).
This is not your average Warrior squad- the focus in the preseason has been heavily on conditioning and fundamentals in a concerted effort to lay claim to the schools first girls volleyball title.
“Our girls have worked extremely hard to be in the best shape possible,” (Joan) Kealalio related while keeping a sharp eye on her scrimmaging charges, “and we look for good things from Ihi (Yama) as well as our other four returnees. Everyone has a positive outlook and it shows in their improved level of play.”
BOYS: A new but very familiar face takes over the boys team this season as Ray Dela Pena moves up from his former junior varsity head coaching position to oversee the varsity program. Helping with coaching duties are long-time assistant Mugz Kaneholani and recent graduate Benjamin Kuhaulua IV.
A new coaching staff as well as the mystery of which six will actually take the court make Kapa’a a bit of an enigma to the other coaching staffs. Split squads shared fifth place in championship play at the Waimea Invitational and a combined team took third at the Waiakea Volleyball Tournament in preseason action.
Key returnees: Ricky Rodrick (OH, Sr.), Koa Yama (DS/S, Jr.), Kade Hashimoto (DS, Sr.), Clesson Higashi (OH/MH, Sr.), Bryan Domingo (OH/MH, Sr.), and Cale Forsen (OH, Sr.).
“I have no major expectations,” Dela Pena offered, “other than them doing the best they possibly can. We have a relatively inexperienced team with a first year varsity setter (captain Kyle Mahoney), but we also have intelligence. They pulled it together as a team at the Waiakea tournament- they know their weaknesses as well as their strengths. It’s just a matter of putting it all together.”
Kaua’i Red Raiders
GIRLS: Only three returnees are left from the squad that finished the 2001 KIF regular season at 8-0 and rolled past state pool play competition Seabury Hall and Kalani. The Raiders made it to the state quarterfinals before dropping a tough 15-12 third set to the eventual third-place St. Joseph Cardinals. The lack of veterans on a team that captured the last two KIF championships hasnt deterred the ambitions or expectations of head coach Richard Roberts (in his 4th year) and assistants Chad Delanoza, Lisa Cummings, and Teralyn Colacio.
They have successfully hosted the eight-team Aston Hotels and Resorts/Bank of Hawaii Insurance Services Girls Volleyball High School Challenge and gained experience at the Longhy Oh Tournament at McKinley High School.
Key returnees: Kyrie Simeona (OH, Jr.), Kellie Masuda (OH, Sr.), and Courtney Doliente (S, Sr.).
“We’re going to run a versatile multi-faceted offense,” Roberts proudly relayed, “and what we’ve needed is more defense. They’ve raised the bar of consistency in all other levels of the game andve really picked it up as a young group. I expect it’s going to be a passionate season all around. Each team wants it terribly- as they do every year. I think it’s going to be outstanding.”
BOYS: Coaching responsibilities have flip-flopped this season with Shawn Doo, in his 2nd year, now assisted by Lorna Tressler-Bazquez.
The Raiders battled to the championship game of the Waimea Invitational before falling to ILH powerhouse Iolani and also gained experience at the Kamehameha Invitational prior to the start of the regular season.
Key returnees: Jonathan Arakaki (OH, Sr.), Warren Lee (DS, Sr.), Chris Simpliciano (DS, Sr.), Aukai Dennis (S, Sr.), Eric Fujikawa (MH, Sr.), Landon Peeren (OH/MH, Jr.), Mason Chan (OH, Sr.), Kelly Foster (OH/MH, Sr.), and Kamu Kawaihalau (OH, Jr.).
“Im assuming it’s going to be close between the three teams,” Doo said, “and the team that makes the least mistakes is going to be the one that comes out ahead. My philosophy is not to prepare the kids to win the KIF but for the state tournament. We really haven’t seen Kapa’a yet and we may have a slight advantage over the Menehunes in that we can scout the Warriors (in next Saturdays Waimea-Kapaa tilt) before we play them. We know who they have but not really what they do.”
GIRLS: In an effort to regain the form that had previously garnered an unheard of 30 consecutive (1970 – 1999) league championships, head coach Dr. Paul Arrington (in his 9th season) and assistants Walter Souza and Ainsley Hori return a veteran squad to reclaim what they feel is rightfully theirs.
The Menehunes finished 4th in the Girls Volleyball High School Challenge in Lihue then journeyed for a weeks isolation on the Big Island to focus on volleyball and come together. They compiled an 8-0 record in taking the Kealakehe High Tournament, beat the Kohala Cowboys on their home court, and finished with a 6-2 showing in the St. Joseph High Tournament.
u Key returnees: Britnee Boeder (OH, Sr.), Ashlee Vea (S, Sr.), Virginia Aguilar (MH, Sr.), Jannah Tafua (MH, Sr.), Michelle Takashima (DS, Jr.), Jenny Morita (DS, Jr.), Ui Kanahele (S/DS, Jr.), Faa Taala (OPP, Soph.), Cailee Koga (S/DS/OH, Soph.), and Robyn Arrington (OH/DS, Soph.).
Five starters from last years squad are among ten returnees on the 2002 roster. Co-captains Britnee Boeder, a 5 6″ senior in her third year as the starting left side hitter, and Ashlee Vea, a 5 5″ senior in her third year of running the offense, will be heavily counted on for experience and to fill leadership roles.
“I think that this will, without much question be the best competition that the KIF has ever seen,” Dr. Arrington confided at practice. “With three very solid teams and I think its going to be an exciting time for the kids and the fans.”
BOYS: Waimea defeated previously unbeaten MIL champion Maui High in state play last season but lost to Moanalua to finish in a three-way pool deadlock (as Maui recovered to beat the OIA representatives). A coin flip advanced the Menehunes to the quarterfinals with Maui also moving on by virtue of a one set play-off victory. After taking the first set against eventual third place finisher Kealakehe, the Menehunes narrowly succumbed in the final pair to prematurely end their season.
Coach Bobby Kamakele returns for his 14th year as the head coach of the boys squad and is assisted by Darrick Peleras Jr. One of their split squads finished pool play with a 12-0 record before eventually finishing in fourth place at their own invitational and a combined team took the Kamehameha Tournament consolation title in preseason play.
u Key returnees: Joshua Vinzant (OH, Sr.), Erwin Wright (S/OH, Jr.), Mark Andres (DS, Sr.), Jeremy McDown (MH, Jr.), Desmond Rodrigues (OH/MH, Sr.), Norman Vea (S/OH, Sr.), Talon Abat (OH, Sr.), and Steven Fountain (OH, Sr.).
Kamakele said, “Were going to have a tough time against Kauai High School, that’s for sure, but no one knows what Kapa’a has because they never played together as a team (in the Waimea Invitational). We won’t be able to see them until we play (on Saturday, September 28th), and then well go from there. Itll be a welcome change to see some new kids coming in like (Red Raiders) Futi Tavana. Aukai Dennis, their setter, is also returning. When they were at the junior varsity level it was pretty much up and up throughout the season. With the influx of new players I think its going to be the same way.”
To be successful in their opener Kamakele feels that his tall Menehune squad must block and play solid team defense. “If we can do those things, the offense will take care of itself.”
The 2002 girls teams look to be very athletic and are extremely well versed in how to play the game. The Menehune experience, active middles and a strong service game figure to be their strong suits, while the improving Raider defensive mindset will be critical to their success.
The Warriors will utilize the cohesion of their returnees and improved physical conditioning to challenge for the title.
With a new crop of youngsters up from the junior varsity, each of the boys squads will sport improved height at the net. Each school possesses high-leaping outside hitters as well as lanky, long-armed middles- the unit that passes consistently to set up their fast flowing attacks will still be playing in November.