Aiea Girls Amassing Wins In Newly Energized VB Season

The seniors on the Aiea High School volleyball team didn’t wait for the post-season to leave their mark.

A year after a disappointing 4-6 season, Na Ali’i’s 2013 edition already had exceeded its win total from last year with three OIA West games still to play.

“It’s their final year, and they wanted to make it a memorable one,” said Kory Toyo, who shares coaching duties with Blythe Yamamoto. “We told them at the beginning of the season that we could get them there if they met us halfway, and so far it has been a good ride for players and coaches.”

Aiea’s senior class of Roina Ma’afala, Megan Ma’afala-Maiava, Paula Mao-Tamasese, Mich’lae Higa and Kanoe Griep-Kadokawa has been the backbone behind the team’s 6-1 start.

The group will play its final home game Wednesday against Leilehua. On the heels of that match with the Mules, Aiea will await its seeding for next week’s OIA tournament. The top five finishers from that tourney get the league’s bids for the upcoming Division I girls state volleyball tournament.

Aiea has only nine varsity players this fall, but what it has lacked in numbers it has made up for in talent. Light moments also are many at practice, according to Toyo.

“We’re a tight-knit family,” she said. “As a whole, they are an easy, happy-go-lucky bunch of kids.

They know how to make us laugh. At the same time, they know when to take things seriously.”

As Toyo scanned her senior roster, she acknowledged a nice mix of colorful personalities and athletic players.

“Roina is a leader by example – she’s the glue because she’s the one who talks. Kanoe can play wherever we need her to play. She’s like duct tape – she can fix anything.

“Mich’lae is our hoop-ster girl,” she added of Higa, one of the top basketball players in the state from her class. “She’s quiet and shy. She’s one who observes everything, but she’s super athletic.

“Paula is a 4.0 student and a well-rounded individual. She plays basketball also and runs track. She’s every parent’s dream.

“Megan is one of our team clowns along with Paula. She’s not holding back this year. When we needed points against Pearl City (in a 25-15, 25-23 win over the Chargers Sept. 23), she wanted the ball. She’s blossomed.”

Entering its match with Mililani late last week, Aiea’s only loss had been to Radford, while it beat Campbell, Waianae, Nanakuli, Waipahu, Waialua and Pearl City.

Aiea’s rotation also includes underclassmen Destyni Grace, Leleo Maeva, Lole Kalani-Liulama and Katelyn Nakasone.

“We’ve been getting better with each practice,” Toyo said. “We’re starting to peak now, so hopefully we can continue that into the post-season.

“We’re really proud of this team.”