LIHUE — Fresh from winning this year’s Kauai Interscholastic Federation championship Monday night, the Red Raiders are now looking toward an even bigger goal.
Kauai High School’s varsity girls volleyball team didn’t take much time to rest since winning the league title as it now prepares for the New City Nissan Girls Volleyball Championships — Division II tournament, which begins Wednesday.
“As far as it sinking in, it won’t sink in until their first game at states. I try to remind them every day that’s where we’re going and the competition level that we’re going to be up against,” said Red Raiders head coach Dorene Matias. “The next three days, we’ll be practicing — getting them mentally and physically ready … getting them ready for state competition level.”
This will be the first time competing at the state tournament for every member of this team.
“I feel that all of our hard work through the summer and all of the conditioning has finally paid off,” said Red Raiders senior Shawna Ogata. “I’m really excited to play at states because I’ve never been up there. But as a team, I feel that we can go really far.
“It’s hitting me really hard knowing that my high school career is almost over,” she added.
Matias played at states during her high school years. The coach has told the team about her experiences, but there’s nothing she can say that can compare to what they will feel when they first step onto the court themselves.
“I played at states. So it’s not something that I don’t understand, but these girls will have to figure this out on their own,” she said. “I can tell them until I’m blue in the face, but they’ll never know the feeling or understand what it takes to compete at that level. Everybody is there for the same thing.”
Despite the team’s inexperience against state-wide competition, Matias believes her players are just as good as those they’ll face. She used the school’s football team from last year and its run to the state title game as a comparison to what her team will be up against.
“We’re not just there to show up. … Our volleyball players are just as good as the players on Oahu,” she said. “I look at our team like last year’s football team going up to states. … The football team proved that we are at competition level. There are good players that play on Kauai.”
For junior Leisa Eto, this trip is an opportunity for herself and her teammates to make what is already a great season even better.
“We’ve been conditioning more and bringing more intensity. … We went back to the basics and make sure we’re doing everything correctly,” she said. “All we can do is show all of the hard work we put into our game. I think that we can stand out to all the other teams, and then they won’t think of us as the underdog.
“I’m more excited. It’s been awhile since a team from Kauai High has won KIF and gone up to states. This gives us more oomph to want to win states. We want to be written down in history,” Eto added.
The Red Raiders will fly out to Oahu the morning of the tournament.
Their first game is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday at McKinley High School. Their first opponent had yet to be determined by press time.
“We’ll find out, then I’ll do my homework on that team,” Matias said. “I believe in them. They have to believe in themselves, and that’s all it’s going to take.”