HIGH SCHOOL VOLLEYBALL
HBA reaps dividends after years of sweat
Years of frustration washed away when Hawaii Baptist captured its first Division II girls volleyball state title last Saturday.
Coach Myles Shioji, a 1994 graduate of the school, was there as an assistant when HBA came up a bit short of state tournament berths at the Division I level. Shioji won't say it, but lots of fans around the Interscholastic League of Honolulu know that if the Eagles had been permitted to play D-II volleyball, they could have won every state title since the classification was created in 2005.
The history of HBA's successful program wasn't lost on the players when they swept previously unbeaten Seabury Hall in the final.
"I think the excitement won't go away for a while," Shioji said. "Some of the girls came up through our intermediate program. They put years in, and it's exciting."
Among the vast following of spirited, polite Eagles fans who packed McKinley's Student Council Gym was former player Tricia Yoshimura. Shioji had all of HBA's former players in mind as the Eagles won the championship.
"We wanted to win also for the ones who didn't get to play for a championship. We were playing for the present and for history," the second-year head coach said.
The Eagles didn't have the height of other powerhouse teams, but middles Kathryn Kaichi (5-9) and Leah Shizuru (5-10) were two of their unsung heroes.
"They aren't terminators, but they really controlled the net with soft blocks. They really slowed down a lot of balls for our diggers," Shioji said.
Now the Eagles go into the offseason busy with club teams and, of course, academics. By next summer, the buzz will return with a new flavor: defending state champion HBA.
"Hopefully, we'll be humble and give the hardest we can. I know that people might hype us up, but a lot of the work has to be done on the court. It'll be a matter of executing it again. The season felt really long, and the players understand that."
As for Kamehameha, the Warriors traveled to the continent at midseason and proved their mettle by placing third at the Durango Invitational in Las Vegas. Their third state title in a row was not a surprise, and neither was their No. 5 national ranking by PrepVolleyball.com.
The Warriors bonded like few teams have. That's why, even before they stepped into Afook-Chinen Hilo Civic Auditorium for the Division I state title match against Iolani last Saturday, staying cool was almost impossible.
They weren't quite in the gym yet when their eight seniors came to the realization that this was the finale.
Jordan Meredith, a 6-foot senior bound for Boston College, was glad they got the tears out early.
"We had an emotional time before we came into the gym. We had to go wash our faces," she said. "We knew we were gonna win. We weren't gonna give it away."
Kamehameha swept Iolani, the only team that managed to give the Warriors a loss during the regular season. The Warriors, as expected, collected all 12 first-place votes in today's final Star-Bulletin Girls Volleyball Top 10 of the season.
With a third state title in a row, the eight departing seniors will leave a large void. Besides, Meredith, Kanani Herring and Bekah Torres -- all three were voted to the all-tournament team -- will graduate.
Iolani, the runner-up, is poised to ascend next season, thanks to a foundation of returning starters, height and athleticism.
Star-Bulletin Top 10 Poll
| 1. Kamehameha, 22-1 (12)
| 2. Iolani, 19-3
||lost to Kamehameha
| 3. Punahou, 18-4
| 4. Kahuku, 14-5
||lost to Punahou
| 5. Roosevelt, 4-0
| 6. Hawaii Baptist, 17-4
||beat Seabury Hall
| 7. Moanalua, 11-6
||lost to Roosevelt
| 8. Seabury Hall, 14-1
||lost to HBA
| 9. Sacred Hearts, 11-7
||none last week
|10. Mililani, 10-7
» Voted on by coaches and media from around the state
» First-place votes in parentheses
» 10 points for first-place vote, 9 for second, 8 for third; etc.
» Also received votes: Kamehameha-Hawaii 9, Word of Life 9, Waiakea 2, Hilo 1, Kamehameha-Maui 1, Molokai 1
» No longer in top 10 (previous rank): Kamehameha-Hawaii (No. 9)