Na Ali‘i Poised For First-ever DI Play In State VB Tourney
The upcoming boys Division I state volleyball tournament has been a recurring topic at Aiea this spring, but that can only be a good thing since such talk is reserved for teams still very much in the mix.
“In the mix” describes Na Ali’i’s present place in prep volleyball. At 4-1 through the first half of their OIA season, they seem on schedule for a first-ever appearance in the event, barring a late-season collapse.
Head coach Erin Okamoto doesn’t have to bring up the subject anymore. Senior co-captains Dylan Yukitomo and Quentin Montgomery are ensuring that the team stays the course and spreads the message.
“It’s within their reach – this is the team,” Okamoto said. “Dylan and Quentin are always telling the guys, ‘We passed this hurdle, and now it’s on to the next one.’ ”
Aiea has been to the DII state tournament, but never DI. Okamoto’s current team is a mix of seasoned veterans with a roster numbering 17, eight of whom are seniors, so this could, indeed, be the year. Aiea’s wins came versus Pearl City, Radford, Kapolei and Campbell, while its lone loss was to Waipahu. Aiea was to play a dual match Tuesday with Waianae and host Waialua before closing out its season at home Thursday versus Mililani. The outcome of all three will determine Na Ali’i’s final standing in the league.
The top two teams from the West earn a first-round bye for the upcoming OIA tournament. (The top six finishers at the tournament earn state tournament berths.) Earning a No. 1 or No. 2 seed would be a big lift in Aiea’s quest for a state berth, as it would only need to win its first match to ensure a spot.
“This team is pretty good,” Okamoto said. “Now, it’s up to them to see what they can do.
“We’ve seen Dylan and Quentin mature and grow a lot since their freshman year,” she added. “They’ve played together and started, so they are our go-to people. Dylan has great hands, and he’s come on as a hitter the last couple of years. Quentin has grown attitude-wise.”
Fellow senior Samson Maeva and junior A.J. Aleaga also have played big roles to date. “Samson is a jumper – his blocking is his best attribute – and he’s a go-to player as far as his hitting. A.J. is a jumper, too. He has a great serve.”
Terence Fong, Kealii Leopoldo and Nakamakani Obrero also have figured in the rotation.
Defense has been the team forte to date, according to Okamoto, perhaps a good omen as post-season approaches.
“Our defense is our offense,” she said. “Samson is our tallest at 6-2, but we don’t have a lot of size, so we need to defend well. We probably spend three-fourths of our practice time on our passing, and it could still be better.”