Some of Kauai’s young volleyball players were on the mainland and took on clubs from all around the country.
Local youth club Ike Loa Volleyball Club competed in the 2019 Volleyball Festival National Championships from June 27 through 30 at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona.
“I think there were 80 courts. Not so sure about that, but the tournament was very well-organized,” said Joshua Mecham, Ike Loa club director and the U14 team coach. “Everything ran really smoothly. What I like about it is, there’s a lot of game time. We had 12 games, and the (U16 team) had 11 games. That’s a lot for a tournament.”
Mecham said in addition to national competition, international clubs competed in Phoenix.
“There were also teams from Mexico, a couple of teams from Canada was there, and all over,” he said. “It was pretty cool. They announced what area from where the teams are. The day before the tournament starts, they have a welcome party. Everyone gets together. They have their flag. They do announcements. They have a DJ, and they have a dance party and a costume party. They do a really fun welcoming party before the tournament starts.”
The Kauai club’s U16 team was 8-3 at the Phoenix tournament and ended up placing 19th out of 101 teams.
“They did well. The challenging part of it is that they’re all from different schools,” said Ehren Edwards, Ike Loa’s U16 coach. “They play with all types of people. You have to make adjustments when you’re playing kids from different schools and they’re not used to playing with each other. So, that was the biggest challenge, but they did well.”
Edwards added that another challenge some of his players faced was being in a big tournament for the first time.
“For some of them, it was a new tournament. Just seeing the grandness of it, it’s a huge event,” Edwards said. “There’s over 100-something courts, and there’s just a lot of volleyball happening. You’re talking about seniors from all over the country. That was probably the biggest adjustment, and maybe the weather, too. It’s extreme weather out there.”
Ike Loa’s U14 team ended with a 6-6 record at the tournament and placed 89th out of 131 teams.
“The 14s, some of them played a little volleyball last year. Some of them, it was their first year playing volleyball,” Mecham said. “This was pretty much all the girls’ first time at a major tournament. They did really well. Like I said, their first year playing, a couple of girls played with each other before but not much.
“One of the hardest things, I would say, was just tiredness — jet lag, you got to get up like at 6 o’clock in the morning and try to play three or four games a day. Our last day, it was a single-elimination tournament on Sunday, and they won all their games that day. So, we ended the season on a good note.”
Nick Celario, sports writer, can be reached at 245-0437 or firstname.lastname@example.org.