Small-enrollment HBA solidifies status as D-II powerhouse


POSTED: Thursday, May 21, 2009

Seems to never fail.

Somewhere, someone watching Hawaii Baptist play volleyball — boys or girls teams — will blurt out:

“;This team is too good for Division II!”;

“;They're cheating!”;

“;This isn't fair!”;

Those comments aren't typical of most fans, but they have not subsided in recent seasons. HBA's girls team has won the last two D-II state titles, and the boys took their second straight D-II state crown Saturday with a sweep of Hilo in the final.

At 19-2 — the losses were against D-I state champ Punahou — chances are there will still be a little consternation about HBA's status in D-II. There are still some who want to punish HBA, a school of 435 students, for overachieving.

For the Eagles, it's about year-round practicing. Just about all of the boys team plays for Kuikahi Volleyball Club, which is led by HBA coach Teoni Obrey. There are limitations for varsity coaches in their club involvement; Obrey says he is cautious and a stickler for abiding by those ILH rules. Regardless of who's there to run practice, the players show up and work.

That's why a second state title — plus a final No. 2 ranking in the Star-Bulletin Boys Volleyball Top 10 — is a nice reward.

“;We had a chance to watch the replay (of the final) on (OC 16) and watch the boys execute,”; Obrey said. “;It feels really good.”;

Just about all of the Eagles have been HBA students for several years. Kyle Barretta, their middle blocker, grew into a 6-foot-7 frame. Ryan Leung, the most outstanding player of the D-II state tourney and just a junior, grew to 6-4 in the offseason.

With Leung, defensive specialists Chris Matsui and Tyler Hodson, outside hitter West Hatae and middle Nathan Le returning, HBA has a core to build on. Barretta's brother, Chad (6-2), saw some playing time as a freshman and will return, too.

“;We'll lose nine seniors, but it motivates me. We'll get the crop from JV and intermediate and get ready with offseason conditioning, build the mind-set they need for varsity,”; Obrey said.

Obrey likes the challenge; he says he has no intention of leaving HBA in the near or distant future.

“;At first, when we were moved into Division II, it was a blow to our coaching staff. We felt like it was a dis to our program,”; Obrey said. “;But as we did a little more research and thought about the HBA community and kids, and what we stand for, we came to the conclusion that were are a Division II school in enrollment, in philosophy. There's no recruiting for sports. If you want a great Christian education, this is the school for you. It just so happens, we play year-round and train year-round, and we're competitive in some sports with some of the top schools in the state.”;

The culture of volleyball — and HBA's cross country program has its share of success — makes winning and losing a byproduct, not a goal.

“;They travel with their club teams and see how much better everyone else is across the nation,”; Obrey said. “;That makes them strive to be the best. It's not about winning. It's about being the best they can possibly be. The ILH (D-II) championship is kind of a bonus.”;