Defense Leading Leilehua Girls Volleyball To Early Success

At the midway point of its OIA season, the Leilehua girls volleyball team’s best offense has been its defense, which is all fine with head coach Larry Cantero.

“Our defense is holding up — we’ve had some ridiculously long rallies — and that’s been the biggest thing,” he said. “Everybody is doing their part, defensively.”

The Mules will need another good defensive effort at 7 p.m. Thursday when they visit Pearl City for a key OIA West match.

The Chargers are perhaps the surprise team in the league, having gone 3-1 out of the gate, which included an upset win at Mililani Sept. 11. For its part, Leilehua was 3-2 heading into its game with Waipahu late last Thursday.

“It could be a defensive (struggle) — they’re normally very good defensively,” Cantero said. “I think the team that leaves the least amount of balls on the floor and which makes the least amount of mistakes will win.”

Pearl City’s lone loss came to Campbell early last week. The Chargers also have beaten Waipahu and Waialua and are on schedule for a much better season than the 5-6 mark they posted last year. The win at Mililani was its first in six years between the teams.

“Our win over Mililani was a total team effort — no one person stood out,” said Pearl City head coach Bryan Camello. “From the girls on the bench to those on the floor, they all felt a part of it. They said afterward that it was a ‘team win,’ and I was really proud of them for saying that.

“Hopefully, we can keep the momentum we have going and keep evolving. We have to work every day. We’re more together this year, but everyone has to get it. We’re on the right path to get there.”

Like the Chargers, Leilehua is relying on a balanced lineup that is without a decided go-to player. Gone from last year, when it went 7-3 en route to a berth at the state tournament, are mainstays Kayla Kilaulani (now playing for Hawaii Pacific University) and Alexis Fetui, whose family relocated to the Mainland in the off-season. Both were outside hitters in 2013.

Cantero’s 2014 Mules roster includes Precious Bagayas-Enos, Tiana Cantero-Kawelo, Saramasina Docktor, Kanoe Kamikawa, Kuulei Kamikawa, Kana Kilaulani, Elisha Levasa, Ember-Punaahele Manaea, Brittany Pasoquen, Jordan Tolentino and Jayde Vellalos.

“They’re well-coached, and they have some athletic kids, and that makes them scary,” Camello said of the Leilehua team. “We just have to worry about doing our own jobs and take care of our side (of the net).”

Finishing scoring plays also will be key for both teams. “When we pass well, we seem to be in every game,” Cantero said. “We need to be confident and be consistent.

When we worry about making mistakes, we get tense and we don’t play relaxed. We just have to go and do it.”

After Thursday’s game, the Mules will have two home games remaining in the regular season versus Campbell Sept. 30 and Aiea Oct. 2.