HIGH SCHOOL VOLLEYBALL
FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hawaii Baptist's Sarah Palmer hit over the block of St. Francis's Teisa Tonga yesterday.
Hawaii Baptist does it with defense
Hawaii Baptist Academy volleyball coach Myles Shioji knows his team won't make a living pounding balls to the floor.
Instead, the Eagles focus on popping them up.
The HBA program's defense-centered philosophy sent two recent graduates to college careers at the University of Hawaii and helped the current Eagles pick up their second straight win yesterday, a 25-4, 25-11 sweep of St. Francis at their gym in Nuuanu.
"Our little girls take pride in that," Shioji said of the Eagles' penchant for keeping shots off the floor. "We take absolute pride in digging up shots anybody can hit.
"We're never going to be the tallest program, from the varsity down to the intermediate program. We pride ourselves on defense and working on our defense-to-offense transition."
The Eagles, a Division II team ranked 10th in last week's Star-Bulletin poll, got off to a rough start against higher-ranked ILH Division I foes in being swept by Sacred Hearts and Punahou.
They began to turn the momentum with a rousing rally against Maryknoll on Thursday, dropping the first game before winning in three. Trailing 11-9 in the decisive third game, sophomore Sarah Palmer went to the service line and never left, serving 15 straight points to close out the win.
The momentum rolled into yesterday's match, with HBA stretching its unanswered point streak to 21 before St. Francis got on the scoreboard. By then, the Eagles (3-2) had set the tone for a 35-minute sweep of the Troubadours (2-3).
"I guess the adrenaline from (the Maryknoll) game just pumped us up for this one today," said Palmer, one of three sophomores in HBA's starting lineup.
"It's good for us because it's still a learning process," Shioji said. "We're a pretty young team, we have a lot of young girls, so it got the morale and excitement going. ... We talked about being a little more vocal, being a little more of a team, sacrificing personal gain for the team and they did a really good job of that today."
On the other side of the net, St. Francis, two years removed from a Division II state title, struggled with its ball-handling early. And when the Troubadours did get a solid swing, the Eagles gobbled up any shot that got to the back row to transition into their attack.
HBA sophomore Cera Oliveira pounded three of her team-high five kills in the Eagles' 5-0 surge to open the match. And when Jenna Kawamura finished her turn on the service line, HBA had reeled off 11 straight points to take a 23-3 lead.
"They have a great defense, they run for everything, they shag it down," St. Francis coach Eric Perry said. "They're known for their defense. The more chances you get the ball back into play, the more times you get to swing at it."
Leah Shirizu posted four kills and Palmer added four more to go along with two aces. Taryn Bohan and Brianna Lovett had three kills each.
Senior setter Keisha Miura said the Eagles will sometimes devote close to half of a 2 1/2-hour practice to digging and serve reception. And having 2005 HBA graduates Jayme Lee and Rayna Kitaguchi now playing Division I college volleyball based on their defensive abilities only adds to the motivation to rack up the floor burns.
"It inspires us a lot to see them play (at UH)," Miura said.