Iolani's Kawika Shoji, Punahou's Spencer McLachlin and Kamehameha's Jordan Inafuku will play in Brazil with the U.S. boys youth national team.

Consolation prize

Missing out on the World
Championships turns out
to be a positive thing for
the U.S. boys youth team

IT was one of those good news-bad news-very good news situations.

» Good: The U.S. boys youth national volleyball team qualified for the World Championships for the first time in history.

» Bad: Because of government travel warnings for U.S. citizens for the area this summer, the team will not be going to Algeria later this month.

» Very good: Instead, the team will compete with three of the top 10 teams in the world -- Brazil, Italy and Argentina -- in a tournament in Brazil.

"Not a bad consolation prize," Tino Reyes said.

Reyes, the associate head coach for the Hawaii men's volleyball team, will again be an assistant for the U.S. youth team. He will also have quite a bit of island company in Cabo Frio, a beach city some 93 miles northeast of Rio de Janeiro.

Joining Reyes are Jordan Inafuku from Kamehameha, Spencer McLachlin of Punahou and Iolani's Kawika Shoji. Reyes expects that the trio will be in the starting lineup for Team USA -- Inafuku at libero, McLachlin at left-side hitter and Shoji at setter.

"Besides being real competitive, these three have extensive volleyball knowledge," said Reyes, who has been involved with USAV for the past six years. "They've been playing volleyball a long time and playing together for a long time. They've traveled, they've won at nationals. They have more experience than some of the kids we're recruiting (this year for UH) and they've been real successful.

"Besides all that, they're good kids and very team-oriented."

The three also have been teammates for nearly half their lives on various Outrigger Canoe Club squads, beginning with the 12-and-under age group six years ago. Their Outrigger teams have medaled (placed first, second or third) at all six of the previous Junior Olympics.

They go for a seventh straight medal this week at the JOs in Louisville, Ky., in the 17-and-under division.

"It's quite a remarkable accomplishment," McLachlin said. "We started at 12-and-under and played there for two years."

"I don't think very many club teams can say they've medaled every year at JOs," Inafuku added. "So of course we're not satisfied this year just to medal. We want to win the whole thing."

Both Shoji and McLachlin were on the U.S. team that qualified for the World Championships last year. While Inafuku was not part of the squad, another Kamehameha product was: Adam Tuifagu.

Tuifagu did not try out for the U.S. team this year. He did, however, have a successful first season at Missouri Valley College, leading the conference in kills en route to being named freshman of the year.

"There's a lot of good players who aren't on this team for one reason or another," Reyes said. "Adam, for example, couldn't get to one of the tryout locations. But we have the best of those who did try out. I like our chances.

"At this level, all you want to do is get them the USA Volleyball experience. They learn how to travel, deal with food, arenas, time differences. It's not just about playing, it's learning how to navigate the other stuff because this is the group that will be the core for the next levels of the national teams."

Reyes, too, would like to move along to the next level with USAV.

"I do like this age group, but I wouldn't mind following these kids as they move up to have some continuity," he said. "A lot depends on the kind of time commitment (USAV) wants. I never applied for this job, got a call out of the blue six years ago and had to check with the boss (Warrior coach Mike Wilton) and my wife.

"I enjoy working with the kids. I don't know if it makes me a better coach, but I get to learn from different coaches. And I enjoy the travel. When you're from Molokai, any place is an interesting transition."

Reyes said Brazil was a great choice, personally and for the team. Pedro Azenha, who finished his eligibility for the Warriors this year, is from Brazil "and you like to visit a country where a player you've had is from, to get a better understanding," Reyes said.

"And the competition will be great. Brazil and Italy are in the top three, Argentina's probably top 10. We have no clue where we are (ranked) in the world. It should be fun."

"I'm looking forward to it," McLachlin said. "It's frustrating that we can't go to the Worlds, but this will still be good volleyball. It will give us a chance to see where we are."

"It's a big advantage that the three of us have played together for so long," Shoji said. "The chemistry shows on the court.

"As a team, we want to win. Individually, the goals are to create friendships, have fun and represent Hawaii well."

USA Volleyball

| | |
E-mail to Sports Desk


© Honolulu Star-Bulletin -- https://archives.starbulletin.com