‘Scrappy’ Lady Falcons Looking Good For OIA Volleyball Play

The Kalani girls volleyball team’s workmanlike mindset is firmly in place again this fall.

“Their drive to succeed is what sticks out to me with this team,” said head coach Janeen Waialae, who is in her seventh season as Falcon coach. “Our team is very scrappy, they all work hard, and they come with experience.”

Should they have another successful 2013, they will have earned it – especially with what is among the toughest schedules to start OIA East Red play. On the heels of last week’s opener (a road win at Kalaheo), the Falcons were to play at Roosevelt last Friday night. A home date with defending OIA champion Kahuku is on the bill for Tuesday, and a trip to defending DII OIA champ Farrington looms Thursday.

For her part, Waialae likes playing high-profile programs out of the gate. “I believe it works out best for us,” said Waialae, whose team went 7-3 in 2012. “I think it allows us to peak at the right time. Everybody in the East has so much potential that it’s a matter of who shows up to play on that day.”

Waialae is building her 2013 team around outside hitter Kerri Okino, setter/outside hitter Rika Okino and outside hitter Courtney Panoke. All three were Honorable Mention All-Conference picks in the East a year ago.

“Kerri is our most consistent player,” Waialae said of Okino, who is a senior. “She works hard. She’s a very good passer, a good defender, and she keeps balls alive for us.”

Rika Okino is only a sophomore, but has a year of varsity experience. Panoke is a senior. “Rika’s competitiveness and her intensity are her strengths,” Waialae said. “Her knowledge of the game is good. She pretty much runs our floor. Courtney brings offensive power. She’s tall, lanky and a great blocker. She has pure athleticism.”

As in past years, Waialae hopes cohesiveness once again will be a strength. “We definitely need to have strong team chemistry. We all have different personalities, and they all have to understand that it has to be about what’s best for the team.”

Farrington moved up to Division I during the off-season after winning its OIA White title a year ago and figures to be a solid early-season test Thursday for the Falcons, in Waialae’s view. “Farrington was really strong last year. Our match with them (a Kalani win) went to three games, and it was really intense.”

The schedule also includes Kailua Sept. 10 at home, Castle Sept. 12 away, Kaiser Sept. 17 at home, Anuenue Sept. 19 away, McKinley Sept. 24 at home, Kaimuki Sept. 26 away and Moanalua Oct. 1 at home (Senior Night).