WAIMEA — The Menehune girls won their second straight league title earlier this month. They will begin their run at states tonight.
“It’s never easy to be a champion. To be a repeat champion is difficult,” said Waimea varsity girls volleyball head coach Chad Delanoza during practice last week. “I’ve said a lot of these teams will get better over time. There’s not a dominating team anymore like in the past. Everybody just gets better.
“For us, we had to grind. We had to come in and work. We had to prepare. They had to realize the position they’re in after every game to make them look ahead just a little,” he continued. “Ultimately, it was the preparation of the coaching staff to help them achieve a lot of their goals that they set as a group.”
Waimea High School’s varsity girls volleyball team is the No. 5 seed in the 2018 New City Nissan Girls Volleyball Championships–Division II state tournament. Waimea will play Hana High School of the Maui Interscholastic League in the opening round at 7 p.m. at Saint Francis School in Honolulu.
Waimea (11-1 KIF) was nearly perfect during the 2018 Kauai Interscholastic Federation season, but things were far from perfect early on.
Delanoza said his team struggled in preseason matches on Oahu.
“We had a really crappy preseason. We never won a game in preseason. We got smoked,” he said. “We got beat by JV teams. We were consistently — consistently bad and consistently good. That was something they had to understand after the preseason — where they were. And then, we set out to do things that they wanted to do. They (the players) put that in perspective because that’s where they wanted to go. We just had to help them get there. It was a process we all had to collaborate on.”
Waimea was 1-2 at states last year. Waimea defeated Hana in the opening round, 3-1. But then the Menehune lost their following two matches and were eliminated in the consolation bracket.
After that win in the opening round, Waimea lost to No. 4 seed Nanakuli of the Oahu Interscholastic Association, 3-2, and then lost to Sacred Hearts Academy of the Interscholastic League of Honolulu in a consolation match, 2-0.
At this year’s tournament, Delanoza hopes his team will make the best of the opportunities regardless of wins and loses.
“It’s a new tournament every year. … For us, last year is last year,” Delanoza said. “It’s a learning tool for us, as well as preseason. That’s the only way you get better. You got to have a tool that help you see the bigger picture. From there, it’s a matter of, ‘Now, do you want to put in the work to get back to that?’ It’s like a carpenter having all the tools but cannot build a house. Same thing, right? So for us, we use the tools to get these guys to see the bigger picture.”
Finding inspiration out of tragedy
Waimea High’s girls volleyball program were dealt a major blow during the season.
Junior varsity player Shyann Freitas suffered from an ATV accident in September. From it, she lost her right foot.
For Delanoza, Freitas’ accident was especially hurtful because she is his niece.
“I couldn’t come to terms with it. I never visit her at all. I always wanted to because I wanted to show my support, but I didn’t know how to come to terms with the fact that I saw this girl give it everything she has, finally got to where she wanted to be and then she had this accident.”
He added: “I’d call her parents. ‘Hey. How’s Shy doing?’ I didn’t want to talk to her, but I just liked to know how she was doing. Inside, I was just devastated by the whole thing. I didn’t know how to deal with it. My wife said, ‘You should call her. Just talk to her.’ So, I did. On the way home, I FaceTimed her. … Then finally, I started calling her every other day.”
On Oct. 5, during a scheduled match at Kauai High School, Freitas reunited with the team.
“I had tears in my eyes. All she wanted to do was be back in the gym with the volleyball girls. I think it says a lot about her,” Delanoza said. “She could just stay home and mope about it. But she wanted to be with the team. She wanted to be with the girls. I saw her, and I was like, ‘Wow. She’s actually here now.’”
But as the team went through its turmoil, a silver lining from it is that it found a sense of purpose.
“I think it gave us more motivation. A lot of the girls are friends with her. It almost got to a point of, ‘What’s your excuse now for not doing what you got to do compared to (Freitas)? This is her now. She has to live the rest of her life. What’s your problem?’” Delanoza said. “We cannot reverse time, but it motivated us to want to do things for ourselves.”
Nick Celario, sports writer, can be reached at 245-0437 or firstname.lastname@example.org.