Kobayashi, Robello bring volleyball success to Siena
POSTED: Friday, October 24, 2008
Kathi Kobayashi and Kau'i Robello have a track record that is simply unbeatable.
Separated by a year at Punahou, the duo won state volleyball titles in both years they played together on the varsity team.
Fast-forward to college at Siena University in New York, and the two have continued that success. Robello joined Kobayashi on the team in the fall of 2006, and the Saints have been crowned Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference champions ever since.
"We've been on a little streak," Kobayashi said.
Their success is a result of all the volleyball they've played together dating to elementary school.
They were teammates at Hawaii Baptist until Robello left for Punahou in the seventh grade. Kobayashi followed her there a year later as a freshman, and when they finally played together at the varsity level, the Buffanblu were nearly unstoppable.
"(During) Kathi's senior year, our team at Punahou was unbeatable," Robello said. "It was a tight-knit group of girls."
A year later, when Kobayashi was a freshman at Siena and Robello was still in high school, the Buffanblu lost to Kamehameha in the state championship.
But it wasn't the end of their run together, as Kobayashi, who played in every game as a freshman for the Saints, helped get Robello to the Northeast.
"I talked to my coach here about her and I knew we needed an all-around player," Kobayashi said.
Siena sent an assistant coach to Hawaii to see Robello play and just like that, the two were back together in college.
"I had initially come up with another teammate from Punahou, but she went back home after a year," Kobayashi said. "To have another Hawaii girl on the team, it really helped me. I've been really lucky to have her here."
It's also helped the Saints win three consecutive conference championships after going nine years without one.
Robello and Kobayashi have been the main reason why Siena is one of the top defensive teams in the conference.
Their play in the back row has helped the Saints go 40-6 in league play since they've been there together.
Kobayashi was on pace to break the school's all-time digs record until suffering a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in her right elbow in the preseason. The injury has limited her to just 10 matches played this season.
"I was diving off the court for (the ball) with my right arm and I jammed my elbow into the ground," Kobayashi said. "It was just like a shooting pain, but I played through it, which probably wasn't really smart, but I did."
For the first time in her career, she's had to miss time with an injury, which is twice as hard considering it's her last year of eligibility.
Without her, the Saints, and especially Robello, have had to pick up the slack.
Robello's been counted on defensively to fill in, and leads the way with 214 digs this season. She's also fourth on the team with 68 kills, and has been key in the Saints going 9-3 in their last 12 matches.
"The other day I told our team we need to focus on our conference games and that's what is important for us," Robello said. "To work together and be able to rely on each other is what we're focusing on."
The Saints have nine games left before the MAAC tournament, where they will try to win a fourth straight league crown.
Kobayashi is expected back from injury before then, which will be a huge boost for both the Saints and Robello.
"We have this like unspoken connection where, for some reason, if a ball goes behind me, she's there and she picks it up," Robello said. "It's hard to explain, but it's easier between us and it's a little more difficult with my other teammates. Having her back will really help."
Kobayashi just wants to get back on the court to enjoy her last season, and also to try to accomplish something rarely done at Siena.
"My class would be only the second class in history to get four (conference titles) in a row," she said. "Hopefully we can pull it out. The competition is really good this year."
As long as both girls are on the court by season's end, it shouldn't be a problem.
After all, it's been so long that neither one of them can remember the last time they didn't finish a season as champions.