Mustangs On Win Streak In OIA East Volleyball Action

The Kalaheo boys volleyball team’s fast start in March can be traced back in part to the work it put in last summer, to hear head coach Ed Chun tell it.

“Summer is supposed to be the time to take a break, but not for them,” said Chun, whose Mustangs took a 4-0 record into the weekend. “They were in the weight room every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 7:30 in the morning. Their attitude and effort have been among the best of any teams I’ve coached.”

Mustang execution has been spot-on, as the team rolled to wins over Anuenue, Moanalua, Kaiser and McKinley in its first four OIA East matches. That left Kalaheo holding a full-game lead over Kaiser for first in the East.

While hardly a surprise, given that the Mustangs advanced all the way to the state semifinals last spring, the loss of key players Nainoa Frank and Reeve Troberg to injuries had some fans expecting Kalaheo to take a step back. That hasn’t been the case, as it overpowered teams with their depth.

Only two years ago, in Chun’s first season, Kalaheo went 2-10, but those days are firmly behind him now. “We had to change the culture and bring the program back. Now we’re looking to improve on last year.”

The current team is a balance of under- and upperclassmen with senior Silila Tucker leading the way. As one of five players who were part of the state champion basketball team in February, the Mustang attack plainly runs through Tucker, the team’s starting setter. “With a good leader like Silila, practice runs itself,” Chun said. “We’re finding that a lot of our success comes from his leadership of our team and his versatility as a player. He worked hard in the off-season, and he’s doing a good job.”

The Mustangs also feature seniors Anthony Rowan and Sam Orcutt at middle blocker and outside hitter, respectively. “Anthony is a real introvert off of the court, but he’s gotten more aggressive through the years, and he’s quick and consistent,” Chun said. “Sam is filling in for Nainoa on the right side, and he’s been doing a good job of trying to fill those shoes. He’s a vocal and emotional leader.”

Senior Josh Ko also has made an impact in only his second season of organized volleyball. “He’s a competitor, which makes up for what he lacks in game experience. He finds a way to get it done.”

Juniors Luke Owens and Sheldon Dolan figure to be among the leaders next season when Chun is reloading. Both already have been big contributers this season. “It’s always easy to find a slot for a 6-foot-7 kid,” Chun said of Owens, a middle-blocker. “(Dolan) has improved tremendously on his ball control and on other aspects of his game.”

Chun’s roster was further bolstered by the arrival of Iolani-transfer Kupaa Harrison, who had a solid sophomore season with the Mustangs’ basketball team this winter. “His competitiveness is like that of a Josh Ko,” he said. Chun also praised Kainoa Peterson, Vince Kahalepau’ole-Bizek, Naia Singlehurst and Chandler Roth.

Kalaheo returns to OIA East action Thursday with a pair of key matches at home versus Kahuku at 5 p.m. and Kalani at 7. The outcome of both could figure big in the league race as well as for seedings at the conference tournament.

“What we’ve seen in the league is that a lot of the schools have stepped up their programs, and anybody can now knock off anybody,” Chun said. “Kahuku always has athletes who love to compete, and Kalani has always been a contender of sorts in our league.”