Aiea Girls Volleyball Returns After Intense Summer Workouts

With a coaching change often comes the so-called transition period, which makes summer workouts even more important for the Aiea volleyball program, to hear co-head coach Kory Toyozaki tell it.

“The girls really worked hard this summer, and I think they have a clear idea now of where our staff is coming from and of the direction we are trying to go,” said Toyozaki, who shares coaching duties with Blythe Yamamoto. Both were at Pearl City last season before switching in the off-season. Toyozaki is a teacher at Aiea, further aiding in the transition.

“Slowly, everyone has been jumping on the bandwagon,” she said. “Being such a small team, they’ve embraced each other. They’ve also worked hard in the classroom, and they’re always encouraging each other in practice. They’re a great bunch of kids.”

Aiea, which finished 4-6 last fall, was to begin its 2013 season late last week and over the weekend with games against Campbell and Waianae, respectively. Na Ali’i return to action Saturday at Nanakuli in the team’s third straight road game.

“They’ve always had athletic kids there, so we just have to be ready to play,” Toyozaki said of Nanakuli. “We’re just taking it one game at a time with this group.”

Toyozaki is building around a pair of senior returnees in Roina Ma’afala and Megan Ma’afala-Maiava. Both are outside hitter/middle blockers. “Roina is our vocal leader. She’s done everything that we’ve asked of her. She’s a motivator and an encourager. She’s definitely a leader by example for us.

“Megan is more silent, but violent – she’s more on the quiet side,” Toyozaki added. “We’re trying to get her to come out of her shell and be louder. She hears that every day from us. She’s an all-around player, who we’re expecting to blossom.”

Toyozaki also envisions good things for freshman Destyni Grace, who has moved into the setter position. “We’re proud of her – she’s usually an outside hitter with her club. She’s graciously taken on that position (of setter) for the team.”

Na Ali’i also will feature middle blocker Leleo Maeva and libero Lole Kalani-Liulama. “Leleo is still young, but she’s already coming around. She’s worked really hard over the past three weeks. We’ve seen tremendous growth in her attitude and in her conditioning.

“We’ve been proud of Lole in every aspect,” she added. “She’s grown into her role, and she’ll be running our defense as the libero.”

Also in the rotation are Mich’lae Higa (outside hitter), Katelyn Nakasone (libero), Taylor Griep-Kadokawa (outside hitter/middle blocker) and Paula Mao-Tamasese (outside hitter/middle blocker).

In addition to the Nanakuli match, the schedule also includes matches with Radford Sept. 11 at home, Waipahu Sept. 14 away, Waialua Sept. 18 at home), Pearl City Sept. 21 away, Mililani Sept. 25 at home, Kapolei Sept. 28 at home and Leilehua Oct. 2 at home.