Hard work pays off for Kahuku volleyballer


POSTED: Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Maybe you saw them.

Maybe you wondered about the two solitary figures running the stretch along Kamehameha Highway between Laie and Kahuku last year.

If you live on the North Shore, maybe you recognized Nile and Shiloah Te'o starting out at Hukilau Beach near the Cackle Fresh egg farm, running on the narrow shoulder lane past the Gunstock Ranch and over the Malaekahana Stream bridge, and finally turning around at Kahuku High and Intermediate School to head back home.

It was David Te'o who set the 2-mile route for his daughter, a senior outside hitter for the Lady Raiders volleyball team, and son Shiloah, a Star-Bulletin All-State safety last year at Kahuku and now a freshman defensive back at Brigham Young.

“;I wanted to see whether my kids had the mental toughness to go through that,”; said the father, an assistant Red Raiders football coach. “;The physical benefits were just a bonus.”;

Every morning, Nile (pronounced like the river) and Shiloah would rise at 5:30 a.m. for seminary, then pound the pavement before hustling back to campus before the first bell.

The hard work has paid off for Nile Te'o and fourth-ranked Kahuku, which capped a 12-0 OIA regular season with a five-set win over Farrington on Saturday.

“;Our team goal was to have a perfect season,”; she said.

Watch Te'o play, and you're likely to be treated to a clinic showcasing her impressive all-around game.

At just 5-foot-6, dynamic leaping ability allows Te'o to hit effectively down the line or cross court. She also dinks over the double blocks she often attracts and even saves the occasional tight set with her left (off) hand.

Te'o is integral to Kahuku's passing game, providing steady service reception, popping up digs and showing impressive lateral motion to lunge for balls seemingly headed for the hardwood.

“;Although she's undersized, she makes up for it in athleticism,”; Kahuku coach Uila Fotu Vendiola said.

Her jump serve gave the Farrington passing game fits on Saturday, as Te'o alternated a sharp topspin dart and a knuckle floater.

An impressive work ethic makes Te'o an all-around dynamo on the court.

“;She's a workaholic,”; said David Te'o, who also coaches Nile and her Lady Raiders teammates during basketball season.

“;Out of all my (five) kids, she's probably the hardest worker,”; agreed Nile's mother, Kelli.

Nile joined the intense Te'o family summer workout sessions in Laie—the crucible where a few of the state's top football prospects pushed each other through speed, strength, quickness and agility drills.

At various times over the past few years, the elite training cohort included brother Shiloah and cousins Manti, the heralded Punahou linebacker, and Malosi (Kahuku '06), a Star-Bulletin All-State first-team pick who will join BYU next year after completing his Mormon mission.

To casual onlookers, the dedication David and his brothers Ephraim, Malosi's father, and Brian, Manti's father, demand of their talented offspring may seem extreme, but the personable, even-keeled Nile Te'o shows no signs of bristling under her father's direction.

“;If you know your child is someone who can be coached up, who can extend beyond limitations, then they can take it,”; said David Te'o.

Besides the physical regimen, “;It's that mental toughness that we stress, training their minds,”; said Te'o. “;If you're mentally tough, you can stand up to any challenge that comes your way.”;

While David took care of the training, it was Kelli Te'o who signed her daughter up for club volleyball in the fifth grade, when Nile was executing jumps of a different sort.

“;I was a cheerleader (for Pop Warner football), and I thought that's what I was gonna do,”; Nile said.

Te'o credits her North Shore Volleyball Club coaches, Irwin and Mona Ah-Hoy, the former Kahuku coach, for fostering her passion for the game and for helping her realize her dream of playing college volleyball.

“;They always encouraged me,”; Te'o said. “;And Coach Mona was writing to the (college) coaches.”;

Since the seventh grade, Te'o has competed in summer tournaments and camps across the mainland.

She spent much of this summer on the mainland, trying to earn a scholarship offer at the Brigham Young and Utah Valley University camps.

After lukewarm interest from both schools, a discouraged Te'o was ready to come home.

“;I always wanted to play for a Division I program,”; she said. “;But I'm short and a lot of schools want 6-1 or 6-2 girls.”;

Mona Ah-Hoy wasn't about to let her give up, urging Nile and her parents to change her return flight so that she could attend the Nevada-Las Vegas camp.

“;Coach Mona said, 'Just go to this last camp and it might be worth it,' “; said Nile Te'o.

“;We were on a tight budget, and the camp was 300, 400 dollars,”; said David Te'o. “;We thought, 'Do we really put ourselves in a hole like that or do we just bring her home?' “;

In the end, Ah-Hoy and husband Irwin convinced Nile and her parents that she should attend the UNLV camp and proceeded to raise funds in the community to cover almost the entire cost.

And at the end of the camp, the Rebels coaching staff offered Te'o a scholarship. She committed soon after returning home in early August.

“;We're so blessed that she has coaches that believe in (her),”; said David Te'o. “;We were so happy when she got her scholarship because she's worked so hard.”;

For now though, Te'o is focused on the immediate future.

The Lady Raiders clinched a first-round bye in the OIA playoffs and look to improve on their fourth-place finish in the state tournament last year.

“;So far, we're doing well,”; Te'o said. “;We'll see how it goes.”;