Aiea’s Libero Kalani-Liulama Declares: ‘It’s My Turn Now’

After seeing the results of her and her teammates’ efforts a year ago, Aiea senior libero Lole Kalani-Liulama made the school’s gymnasium her second home this summer.

“(Hard work) really does pay off,” she said. “After it is all over, and after all of the running, it is all worth it. Last season was a great experience. It was the best season I’ve ever had.

“I’ve spent most of the summer working out,” Kalani-Liulama added. “I’m a senior, and it’s my turn now. I’m trying to learn to be a leader so that the young girls will know what to do (when it is their turn to lead).”

Aiea’s breakthrough season of 2013, which saw Na Ali’i return to the state volleyball tournament after a three-year absence, also coincided with Kalani-Liulama’s own transformation.

“I had the baddest attitude on the team,” she recalled. “I knew I had to change my ways. I’m a lot more calm now and don’t get as frustrated. I’m working on it. If it weren’t for (co-head) coaches Kory (Toyozaki) and Blythe (Yamamoto), I don’t think I’d be the person I am today.”

Kalani-Liulama will once again be starting libero for Aiea, a role she relishes because of the amount of responsibility that falls on her.

“I get to cover the whole back row and basically run the whole defense,” she said.

With her eligibility clock ticking into her senior year, she also increased her commitment to volleyball in the off-season, playing with Tava Volleyball Club. She was on a traveling all-star team Tava took to Las Vegas last February.

“I’d always wanted to experience club volleyball,” she said.

At present, Aiea is preparing for its OIA season opener Sept. 2 at home versus Waianae. The team recently took part in the Longy Okamoto Pre-Season Tournament.

“Our team is slowly coming together,” Kalani-Liulama said. “We did pretty well at (the Longy tournament). It was kind of hard to adjust at first because we didn’t have every team member at every practice. Our setter (Destyni Grace) was hurt, and another girl had four wisdom teeth pulled. We’ve been missing the little pieces, but we’ll pull through.

“I believe in this team,” she added. “If we play together, I feel very confident we can go far this year. Now that we have all of the girls, we’re rearranging (the lineup).”