One only needed to take a quick glance at Waiakea’s girls volleyball practice earlier this week to determine that the retooled Warriors are as recognizable as ever.
The simple caveat being that many of the faces, heretofore, are notable for their BIIF feats on other fields of play.
Coach Ashley Hanohano is down two ever-reliable security blankets, but she appeared as comfortable as usual as she watched her team do drills at the school gym in preparation for her sixth season.
“We actually don’t know where we stand compared to Hilo and Kamehameha, so this tournament will be a nice eye-opener,” Hanohano said, referring to the Warriors’ sixth annual preseason invitational, which runs Thursday through Saturday at Waiakea. The first matches Thursday begin at 3 p.m.
“We have been taking more time in working on skills rather than conditioning and what we would normally do. We’re working our defense and kind of getting our players more familiarized with our defense.”
Waiakea’s defense rarely rested the past three years — two of which ended in BIIF Division I titles — thanks to libero extraordinaire Jordyn Hayashi, who shared co-league player of the year honors her final two years of high school. In 2017, Hayashi was joined on the marquee by outside hitter Kayla Kahauolopua, who was extraordinary in an epic BIIF championship game against Hilo and carried the Warriors over the finish line.
You can take a red pen and cross out many of the key players on the roster from last year’s team — its other all-BIIF player, Melina Devela, is across the street at UH-Hilo — but Waiakea boasts nearly a full complement of club players, and Hanohano still has at least one player who brings a smile to her face like Hayashi did.
“We still have Makena Hanle,” she said, smiling.
The senior outside hitter/libero was somewhat of a luxury performer last season, but this time around her versatility will be a necessity.
“She actually got to hit in times of need, and she was only a back row player, so we only just threw her in there,” Hanohano said. “This year, we see her doing more of that.
“She says she’s ready for whatever the team needs, so that work for me.”
It works for Hanle as well.
“I’m going to have to play all around this year and a lot more hitting,” said Hanle, whose club team is HI Intensity. “I like to be versatile and learn new positions at the same time.”
She can’t be two places at once, of course, so if Hanle is more focused on hitting it makes sense that her biggest team concern is defense.
“We lost a huge factor,” Hanle said, “but we have returners who are stepping up, which is good.”
Neither the libero nor setter positions are solidified yet, so Hanohano will test the waters during the next three days. Fans who watch Waiakea at the tournament may need to be reminded that it’s August and not November.
“Half the team are basketball players,” Hanohano said.
One who is not is senior Cadelyn Kahauolopua, who offers the requisite height at 5 feet 9 to help on the front line, but she can also set.
Her career arch is similar to that of Hanle.
“Maybe a little bit more pressure in that she’s a go-to player and an impact player,” Hanohano said.
Senior Cary Catrett returns at outside hitter and Hanohano likes the dynamic that left-handers Bethany Honma, a junior, and Siera K. Aloha, a sophomore, bring to the position.
“I wish I was left-handed, because they are so hard to defend,” said Hanohano, a setter in her days at St. Joseph. “Siera is almost as tall and Cadelyn, and (Bethany) can be a strong outside hitter.”
After a year away from the team, Chazlyn Kaili returns for her senior season and will be a welcome addition at middle blocker.
Honma is one of those aforementioned basketball players, and this season she’s joined on the varsity volleyball roster by junior Kelsie Imai, a three-sport standout, and Kayla Iwata, a junior.
Another recognizable face new to the varsity is junior Halee Sweat, the ace for Waiakea’s softball team.
Hanohano is looking forward to developing Imai’s raw talent on the outside or in middle.
“Once we fine-tune her skills, she’ll be super athletic (for us),” Hanohano said.
Hanle can see the season unfolding in any number of ways. She calls it a rebuilding year, but she’s not giving any ground to the other members of the power trio.
“It might be an evenly matched,” she said. “Whoever shows up.”