HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
Leoni looking for his hat in time for today’s playoff
They wear orange.
They love playing for big crowds and TV audiences.
Their coach wears a dorky hat, not all the time, but when the playoffs arrive. The Kalaheo Mustangs and coach Sivan Leoni aren't just looking forward to the Oahu Interscholastic Association Division I playoffs.
The Mustangs thrive on the pressure.
"Especially for us, the quarterfinals determines who goes to states. It's always a high-pressure game," Leoni said last night, anticipating today's match against Kaimuki.
The Bulldogs are the fifth seed from the East, while Kalaheo is the top seed from the division. The Mustangs, ranked No. 5 in today's Star-Bulletin Boys Volleyball Top 10, are leaving the regular season and old accolades behind.
There's a safety net in the OIA playoffs now that the Division II state tourney has become a reality. The OIA now has six state berths.
"If we lose, we still have a chance, but we'd like a good seeding at states," said Leoni, a former University of Hawaii standout. "This has always been the toughest match of the season because there's more weight."
Leoni's enthusiasm and energy level easily match those of his players.
"They like the competition. All season long, we try to play a fun game, a game you have to step up and they really understand that these are the games where you have the most fun," he said, referring in large part to OC 16's live telecasts.
"I'm a big supporter of TV coverage. When you think about it, the main reason why you play is for enjoyment and entertainment. Having the TV over there helps a lot of people who can't show up at the gym. The kids like it, and I'm not afraid of taking advantage of it," he said, forgetting that his trademark headwear is part of the postseason wardrobe.
"I gotta look for my hat," he said.
Punahou collected all eight first-place votes after sweeping Damien and No. 2 Iolani last week.
Roosevelt made the most headway in the boys poll, rising two spots to No. 7.
In the girls poll, Iolani, on the strength of wins over No. 2 Kamehameha and third-ranked Punahou, solidified its place atop the rankings with all 12 first-place votes.
The Raiders sealed the Interscholastic League of Honolulu's regular-season title and an automatic state berth. The league playoffs begin this week, with the ILH's second state berth at stake.