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Na Ali‘i Rally For OIA Volleyball Tourney Despite Injuries

The Aiea girls volleyball team counted on its cohesiveness all through the season.

As it prepares for the first round of the OIA Red post-season tournament, it will need team unity more than ever, in co-head coach Kory Toyozaki’s view, given her team’s injury situation.

“We’ve been plagued by injuries, so the nine girls who are left are going to have to pull together,” said Toyozaki, who shares coaching duties with Blythe Yamamoto. “We’re going to go back to the gym and figure it out, mentally. Physically, we can play. Mentally, we’ll have to step up and believe.”

Aiea, which was 6-2 at press time, won its first six matches before injuries began to accumulate. As of late last week, Na Ali’i were without setters Destyni Grace and Kamalani Cachola, as well as junior Leleo Maeva, who also won’t be available in the OIA playoffs.

Grace suffered a torn ACL against Radford Sept. 11 and will miss the rest of the season, as will Maeva, for undisclosed reasons.

Cachola’s status was still being evaluated after hitting her head in the Kapolei match last week.

Even with these setbacks, Aiea still could secure a favorable seed for the OIA tournament, which begins Oct. 14.

It has posted wins over Waianae, Nanakuli, Radford, Waipahu, Waialua and Pearl City this season, with losses only to Mililani and Kapolei.

Aiea was to play Leilehua and Campbell after press time to close out the season.

Defense has been Na Ali’i’s forte, in Toyozaki’s view, and has been an area of focus lately.

“Aiea has always been known for defense, and it continues to be our strength,” she said.

“Our offense also has been coming around. With good passing, we can run our offense.”

Aiea’s roster for the OIA tourney will include notables such as Lole Kalani-Liulama, Katelyn Nakasone, Alayna Iose, Leslie Lagafuaina, Vevesi Liilii, Marissah Martinez, Christina Betham, Kristen Kauahi and Chaika Kauhola.

The top six finishers at the OIA Tournament will earn league berths for the Division I state championships, which take place Oct. 31-Nov. 7.

With the OIA changing to a single-elimination format, the stakes now are higher for first-round matchups that could close the books on a season.

“I like the format,” Toyozaki said of the tournament. “It’s fair. It’s all about the team that shows up now.”