Lady Mustangs Keep Eye On The Prize While Conditioning

Should its girls volleyball team make a post-season run, expect Kalaheo to give major credit to player conditioning.

Indeed, three-hour practices have become a way of life for the Lady Mustangs, but no one is complaining, and they aren’t planning to take their foot off of the accelerator, according to head coach Berta Downey.

“During the first hour of practice, we condition the entire hour,” she said. “The girls understand that, and they live for it. They realized this season that as other teams became tired, they were still banging away, and it didn’t look like we were tired at all. Our girls are in shape big-time.”

The Mustangs went 7-4 in the OIA East season, with all four defeats coming to Division I teams. They went 5-0 against DII teams and earned the top seed from the East for the OIA White playoffs. Kalaheo will host a semifinal Oct. 21 against the winner of a first-round matchup between Campbell and McKinley. Kalaheo was the OIA DII runner-up a year ago and has been seen as a favorite since the beginning of fall camp.

“This is unfinished business for us,” Downey said of the OIA playoffs and state tournament. “I’m definitely excited for the kids. We feel like we are peaking when we want to be, but I also think we still can play better.

“We’ve been blocking really well and hitting well at the net. What we can improve on is our defense — going for every ball — and our passing.”

The emphasis on conditioning will remain in the coming days, according to Downey, who noted that matches now will be best-of-five rather than best-of-three. “Conditioning will definitely be big — we have to prepare for that long match.”

Still a relatively young team, the Mustangs nevertheless are seasoned, as several underclassmen took on big roles in 2013, including senior middle blocker Alex Jacobsen, junior setter Siani Yamaguchi, sophomore outside hitter Syenna Masaki and junior libero Bobbi Anduha.

“Alex had a really good regular season for us, and so has Syenna,” said Downey, whose team has won four in a row. “Siani has been setting well along with Leslie (Sanchez), and Bobbi’s passing has been great.”

Downey also had high praise for Riley Lynch, Violet Subee and Taylor Bitanga. “Those three have really stepped up,” she said.

With a layoff between the regular season and the start of next week’s OIA playoffs, Downey also expected to set up some scrimmages this week to keep them sharp. “We want to keep our girls humble, but also fired up,” she explained. “We want them to enjoy the ride, too. I’m very proud of the way they’ve been playing.”

The Mustangs, who will be moving up to Division I next season, also are seeking a second-straight berth in the DII state volleyball tournament next month. The top three finishers at the OIA White Tournament earn the OIA’s state tournament berths.