HIGH SCHOOL VOLLEYBALL
Mules move up 1 spot to No. 8 in S-B poll
Ernest Balignasay has always felt that old Mule spirit.
In the confines of Leilehua gym, his boys volleyball teams have had up and down years -- more on the up side. This year's team, though, is rapidly developing into one of the veteran coach's best. At 9-0, the Mules are closing in on a possible top seed in the Oahu Interscholastic Association West.
They moved up a spot to No. 8 in today's Star-Bulletin Boys Volleyball Top 10.
Should the opening round remain at host sites -- TV could quickly move the location -- Leilehua will be in position to reward those longtime fans who have been turning out for the team through all the good and not-so-good seasons.
"We've always had a lot of people at our matches," Balignasay said. "That's pretty good."
Team morale has also been good. "Our enthusiasm is much greater now. At practice, I gotta be more creative," he said.
Outside hitters Josiah Estivillo and Lawrence Villafinia have provided the power in Leilehua's attack. They'll need that and a good home crowd when Pearl City visits tonight. The Chargers' only loss came against Leilehua, a three-set battle that could have left the Mules as the team doing the chasing in the West.
Balignasay credits his team's offseason training for the unbeaten start.
"This is the first time we've had this much club participation. About 60 percent of them play club," he said.
In case his team has already forgotten, Pearl City swept Leilehua last year.
Big blue watcher: Moanalua coach Thomas Lake is busy enough with his team, but that doesn't mean he isn't a fan of high school girls volleyball as a whole. He's kept a close eye on the late-season races in the OIA and Interscholastic League of Honolulu.
In the ILH, Kamehameha rebounded big last week to outlast Iolani in three sets. Both teams have one loss and are chasing top-ranked Punahou. The first-round winner will clinch an automatic state-tournament berth.
"Iolani matches up much better with Punahou, so I see that game being a real barnburner on October 17," Lake said. "It also gives Leinani Keanini more time to get up to full strength."
Lake also has an observation about the Maui Interscholastic League.
"Maui High is still being overlooked. I predict they will take Kamehameha-Maui," he said.
KS-Maui remained at No. 10 in today's poll, while Maui is unranked. The teams will meet on Oct. 19 at the Warriors' gym.