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Making the Leap By Jazerine Nakamura (‘19)
After dominating Division II for the past ten years with nine state titles, HBA’s boys varsity volleyball team made the jump to Division I this season. This change will allow the team to play against the best the state has to offer, including ILH teams like ‘Iolani, Kamehameha, Mid-Pacific, Maryknoll, and six-time defending state champion Punahou. With the team having won seven straight Division II state championships, HBA’s athletic director and the head volleyball coach believed it was time for a new challenge. “The primary reason for the change was that the ILH Division II has become less competitive over time. It wasn’t about winning too many D-II titles or wanting to change our identity,” explained Athletic Director Deren Oshiro. “We’re still a small school and still proudly represent other small schools,” he said. “It will be a good opportunity for our program to grow,” added Oshiro. “I think our coaches and players are excited.” Head coach for the last 16 seasons, Teoni Obrey agreed and said that he feels the team has all the tools they need to be successful. Obrey believes this move will definitely challenge the student athletes but also enhance the school’s profile. It will also show that although HBA is considered a small school, the athletes still “work hard, pay attention to detail, stay disciplined and get the most out of their abilities.” HBA’s Division I opponents have welcomed the team with open arms. ‘Iolani’s Athletic Director Eddie Maruyama feels that everyone will benefit from this change—HBA, ILH and the HHSAA. “The level of competition and quality of volleyball has improved with HBA in Division I,” he added. “HBA’s move will be helpful to the league because it will create good competition and help raise the overall level of play,” said Glennie Adams, head athletic director at Kamehameha Schools–Kapalama and ILH boys volleyball coordinator. Echoing that sentiment, KS-K Warrior head coach, Randy Nako, said he believes “it is a win-win situation for the league and for HBA.”
HBA’s former Division II opponents foresee both benefits and challenges ahead for the Eagles. “Playing at the D-I level will force staff and team members to be a little more deliberate about the process. There are no ‘games off’ in any league, but HBA will have to bring their ‘A’ game to every practice. They’ll have to bring their ‘A’ game to every match,” said Le Jardin head coach, Lee Lamb. With its first-ever losing record (1-3) two weeks into the season, the Eagles didn’t have to wait long to face the challenges that came with their D-I move. The first matchup for the Eagles was against the ‘Iolani Raiders on February 27. HBA put up a good fight but their D-I opener ended up with a 25-17, 25-23 loss. In their recent game on March 6 against Kamehameha, HBA lost again—26-28, 25-19, 25-23—but won one set. Their third loss came at the hands of Punahou 25-17, 25-16. Despite the team’s record, the players remain positive. “For the past several years, league games against other D-II teams weren’t as challenging as we hoped,” senior setter Davin Rausch said. “So even though we have a losing record, we’re still excited to be playing at a new level.” Junior Bryson Gonzalez agrees. “It’s nice to play with bigger and stronger teams this year,” he said. Gonzalez also shared that he wants the team “to grow and learn from the experiences playing in D-I will have to offer.” Sophomore Micah Murayama also believes the most difficult part is “having to be more disciplined and always be positive whenever things might not be going the way we hope.” Of course, Obrey knows the most difficult part of the change is that the skill level of the athletes and coaches in Division I is very high. However, Obrey wants his players to have the same focus as they had at the D-II level. “We are not defined by the wins and losses, but how we play the game,” he said, adding that the team will need to be locked in throughout the season in order to be successful. HBA has just one win going into tonight’s game against Maryknoll. Coincidentally, both teams share losing records with their only wins against Mid Pacific.
LEFT: Senior Davin Rausch sets middle hitter Max Wiemken in win over Mid-Pacific (W - 28-26, 21-25, 25-20) on March 7 (Photo courtesy of James Miura) RIGHT: Senior Jon Kishaba celebrates a point during a game against ‘Iolani (L - 25-17, 25-23) on Feb 27 (Photo courtesy of Michael Lasquero from ScoringLive)
By Jazerine Nakamura From the Spring 2018 Spike Nite issue